Na Na pinches her pennies (aka frugal living)

Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.

Frugal expenses snowball

Have you ever heard of the debt reduction snowball?  If not, let me explain that it is a way to reduce debt by paying off the smallest debt, taking the money you would have used for paying it, and applying the amount to the next smallest along with the normal payment until it too has a zero balance.  When that one is paid off you take the money from both of those payments and apply it to the next smallest along with its normal payment etc. until all debts are paid.  Its called a debt snowball because each time something has a zero balance you have a larger amount to use toward paying off all your debts.

Well here is a twist on the debt snowball that I use for reducing my expenses.  I don’t have any debts like credit cards or loans.  I have normal living expenses only but now I have a mortgage payment which I didn’t have at the other house.  The mortgage takes a bit over half my SS each month.  (62%)  If I don’t keep working toward reducing my expenses I’ll eventually find myself living without something.  Why?  Because I can live without a lot of things but I can’t live without a roof over my head.

Here’s how my expenses snowball works.  I have listed all my expenses in no particular order.  The dollar amount isn’t important to explaining the expenses snowball.

  • Mortgage
  • Gas/electric (utilities)
  • Water/sewer
  • Medication/doctor visits
  • Pre-paid funeral
  • Phone/internet
  • Bus fare/transportation

All of the expenses are a bit flexible except for the fixed mortgage payment.  You see that I didn’t list food, clothing, entertainment, and so forth?  I was already struggling to pay everything and now with a new mortgage its an even tougher struggle.  Sometimes I do come up short on paying the bills.  Like in the winter with higher heat costs.  My quilting income isn’t much but it sure does help with what I can’t pay or buy with my SS.

How this works is each time I’m able to reduce one of these by even a tiny amount that money is set aside to be used for reducing the amount of the other expenses in some way. For example:  When I moved to this house I was given a reduced cost for the phone and internet.  Yippie!  I hit the jackpot.  I’m saving $40 a month over what I was paying before.  That means I have fourty dollars to apply toward reducing another expense.

I took one $40 and bought surge protectors.

New house 2016 121

I knew they wouldn’t reduce my electric usage by alot but even a penny less is a penny that can be used elsewhere.  Surge protectors with off buttons keep appliances from using energy while waiting to be “instantly on” whenever I need to use them.  I can do without that convenience in order to save a little money.

I took another $40 and bought a non-electric floor sweeper.  I don’t know how much it would cost to run an electric vacuum but this one costs absolutely nothing.  I won’t see a reduction in energy use because I’ve never had a vacuum but I won’t see a rise in energy use either.  Eventually all the carpet will be removed and the beautiful wood floors refinished.

New house 2016 151

This month I bought four LED bulbs with the extra $40.  These bulbs use 4 watts of power instead of the 100 watt bulbs that were in the room lights everywhere.  These bulbs cost a bit over $10 each when on sale and will last ten years.  According to the package it should cost no more than 96 cents a year to use each one.

Energy diet 2016 038

When I’ve replaced all 24 bulbs in all the lights I’ll have reduced the wattage from 2400 to 98.  So at only 96 cents per bulb per year that should mean my electricity for all the bulbs will not be more than $24 for the entire year instead of $600.  I’d call that a significant savings.  Wouldn’t you?

A friend took me to bingo not long ago and I won some money.  I sure was tempted to use the money for trivial things but opted to save it for something special.  I bought this.

I like the ease of opening and closing.  I didn’t buy from this company but the video sold me on the brand.  I bought mine through a company listed on Amazon because they advertised they had it “in stock” and “ships from USA” at a reasonable price.  I fully expected to get it within a few days.

I opted for this type clothes line over other types because I couldn’t find good options for placement in my back yard.  After purchasing I got an email saying it wasn’t in stock and would take six weeks to arrive because it was coming from Germany.  Did I want to wait or cancel?  I should have cancelled but didn’t.  I ordered it on July 3 and it arrived August 20.

The ad also said it came with a screw in ground holder which it didn’t.  I don’t want to set it in concrete just in case I want to move it later.  I had read some of the comments to find out about that problem so I ordered a screw in base separately.  The line is here but the base isn’t.  I checked and the base won’t be shipped until August 30 and is due to arrive by September 7.  For sure I will never order through that Amazon company again.  They get a one star rating from me.

This should reduce my utility usage quite a bit over using an electric dryer.  I couldn’t hang clothes outside at the old house.  The neighborhood stank!  I sure didn’t want to wear stinky clothes.  I’m glad this neighborhood doesn’t stink.

A few days ago I started thinking about making window quilts for my windows.  The old house had very old single pane windows that didn’t fit very well.  It was a constant battle to keep out the cold in winter and heat in the summer.  Window quilts and plastic were essential to keeping that house warm and the utility bill low.  Imagine my surprise when I saw the windows in this house are energy efficient double pane.  Yippie again!  Plastic is not necessary and no need for window quilts unless I just want them.

I discovered another good thing about this house.  It has very thick walls.  At least an inch thick.  The electrician told me that back when this house was built drywall was just starting to be used.  People building houses were skeptical that drywall would be strong enough so they plastered over the drywall as if it was a base for plaster.  That meant half inch of plaster over half inch drywall.  This means my walls are energy efficient.  Another jackpot.

Once again, why am I doing this expenses snowball?  Because if I don’t reduce the expenses I won’t be able to keep everything.  Guess what will be the first to go.  Yes, the internet.  I sure don’t want to do that.  The internet is my connection to the outside world and my entertainment.  Ok I do know it would be next to impossible to reduce any of my expenses to zero without discontinuing it.  But, it can be exciting when I’m able to use new ways to save.  Every little bit helps.


22 comments on “Frugal expenses snowball

  1. Vickey
    October 26, 2016

    Anita, if you make and hang window quilts, you will still save money by improving those windows’ energy efficiency. If I recall correctly, a single-pane window has an R value of 1. I believe a double-pane window only has an R value of 2 or 3. In any case, adding window quilts should double or triple that.

    Good luck in the endless quest to find ways to cut expenses. Your creativity and resourcefulness stand you in good stead.

    • Anita
      October 26, 2016

      You’re right Vickey, window quilts would still save money on double pane windows. I was just surprised by the difference because I’d never been up close to energy efficient windows before. At the old house I had leaky single pane windows that were always cold.

  2. morgne
    August 29, 2016

    I love the idea of the ‘frugal snowball’. I think about this subject a lot. For instance, if I buy something I needed for substantial discount, then the remainder can be spent on something else I really needed, hopefully at a discount. 🙂

    The leverage you gain in one area can be used to move weight in another area.


    • Anita
      August 31, 2016

      Thank you. I like the way you put it. I’m gonna remember it.

  3. Margie in Toronto
    August 23, 2016

    Such an interesting way of looking at things – and very sensible shopping. I’m just switching over to the new lightbulbs myself – bit by bit as I deplete my stock of old bulbs. I bought myself a drying rack a couple of months ago and love it! It folds away when not in use and since I live in a small apt. I set it up in the bathtub when I need to use it. I have a large, west facing window in my bathroom so the sun shines in and dries everything very quickly. Shirts, t-shirts, sweaters etc. all go on to hangers out of the washing machine and are hung over the shower rail. The only things I put in the dryer these days are sheets & towels. An hour in the dryer costs $1.50 (and that’s the minimum) so it saves a bit every month. I only have area rugs in the living room and bedroom so I have a small lightweight stick vacuum – it’s all I need, doesn’t take up a lot of space and it was very reasonably priced (thru Amazon) – no need for anything bulky or expensive. Some purchases are necessary but it’s important to be sensible and not to “over buy”.

    • Anita
      August 25, 2016

      At my old house I used a drying rack in the bathtub and hangers on the shower rod too. I still have it and use it. It will be most handy when the weather doesn’t cooperate for outdoor drying. There was a time, a couple of generations ago, when every household had an outdoor clothes line of some type, even those living in apartments. Sigh, that was so long ago young people don’t know about it.

      You’re right, I have to remind myself all the time…. don’t buy too much.

  4. jane
    August 23, 2016

    Great ideas! Like you, I have very few expenses with wiggle room & I also have a mortgage. There’s just about nothing more I can do to reduce expenses, but I keep hoping I’ll find something more.

    • Anita
      August 25, 2016

      Yes, it is hard to find new or renewed ideas to cut expenses. Thats why I get excited about posting something new I find or remember. Even if someone else has done it before I’m excited when *I* figure it out. Maybe someone can benefit too if I post about it.

  5. Theresa
    August 23, 2016

    When I was in debt, I used a similar system except that I paid off the bills with the highest interest rate first. Since then, if I can’t pay for something that month, I don’t buy it until I can. I love being debt free.

    • Anita
      August 25, 2016

      Hmm… that works too. I can’t imagine what stress people in debt are suffering these days. I’m so glad we aren’t one of them.

  6. kathi
    August 23, 2016

    Some EXCELLENT ideas Anita!! I’m going to have to start thinking this way, again, as well. You just never know. Sounds like things are progressing right along in your New home. VERY HAPPY for you.

    • Anita
      August 25, 2016

      Kathi! Hi I’m always happy to see you here. Its going slowly but that’s a good thing for me.

  7. Jasna
    August 23, 2016

    Yep. Every little bit surely helps. I have installed thick curtains over both the front and the kitchen doors this winter ( one curtain is made from store-bought material, and the other from material reclaimed from discarded clothes). I intend to turn them into some kind of quilts for winter next year. This year we had an exceptionally mild winter until a couple weeks ago, when temperature reached -9 °C.

    I SO enjoy reading your posts! Best wishes from Chilean Patagonia.

    • Anita
      August 25, 2016

      How did you handle going in and out of the doors with curtains over them? Or were those doors not being used? It always catches me by surprise to see you are in Patagonia. I love it.

  8. sarasinart
    August 23, 2016

    You teach people so much with all your great ideas!

    • Anita
      August 25, 2016

      Thanks, I wish I could do more.

  9. Donna
    August 22, 2016

    Totally understand your reasoning. The first of the year my health insurance went up $40 a month. Good by home phone. Switched to a cheaper cell phone plan and was able to cover the increase. Wonder what will have to go this coming year? No income cost of living raises but expenses going up just does not balance the budget.

    • Anita
      August 25, 2016

      Yes, I had heard there won’t be a COLA next year and that the medicare premiums are going up too. That means less money to live on next year. Our local utility company is also getting a couple of rate hikes before the end of the year too. It will be more expensive to heat the house.

  10. Sandy
    August 22, 2016

    I love this very practical idea.
    I hop you don’t have to cancel the internet. I so enjoy reading your posts and being inspired by them.

    • Anita
      August 25, 2016

      I’ll do all I can to keep the internet. I like having it and writing about frugal stuff.

  11. Linda Smith
    August 22, 2016

    I don’t have a clothesline yet but I hang most of my damp clothes on hangers & hang on a rod in the garage or on a clothes rack in the laundry room. Every penny counts!

    • Anita
      August 25, 2016

      Sure does! Hangers and a rack work too.

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