Lowering Bills…Even More

Macy M47 comments10498 views



I have been re-evaluating my budget lately as I am nearing the point where I will not be pulling a pay check.  I am very glad to be at the point I am a today and going through thing has made me feel a lot more secure than I had felt before.

My monthly bills 7 years ago looked like this (I was married at that point, I won’t include ‘his’ expenses.  Also, I am leaving health insurance off simply because it is infuriating to me, that will be a rant for another time 🙂 ):

  • $2239.00 Mortgage
  • $502.00 Car Payment
  • ~$180-$250 Home Utility Payments (Gas/Electrical)
  • $32.00 Water/Sewer/Trash
  • $42.00 Home Insurance
  • $78.00 Car Insurance
  • $100.00 Cell Phone
  • Food/Gas Costs

That makes my monthly total $3,273-$3,243 a month plus all of the food and gas needed!   On top of that, at that point there was another car, more car insurance and several other misc. bills. We were paying out more than $5K a month for ‘things’.  That’s over 60K a year on hard costs alone for two people, no kids (though there were a few dogs).  Completely ridiculous!   At that point our combined income was six figures a year.  It blows me away because I have NEVER felt as stressed financially as when we made so much money!  I have never had such a small amount of savings either.  On top of that EVERYONE was trying to extend us further lines of credit for furniture, or TVs or anything.  It is SO easy to let things get out of hand so fast (especially when you can’t get on the same page with your partner, but that is a whole other story too)!

From there I have found my way to where I am today, these are my current monthly bills:

  • $200.00 Monthly Property Rent
  • $502.00 Car Payment Paid Off!
  • ~$6.00-$50.00 Home Utility Payments (Gas/Electrical/Water)
  • $42.00 Home Insurance Not Insured
  • $38.00 Car Insurance
  • $100.00 Cell Phone See Below
  • Food/Gas Costs

That brings me down to about $242.00-$288.00 a month.  My TOTAL living expenses for hard costs are about half of what my car payment was before.  That’s pretty amazing really.  This may all change as MiniM arrives a little (or a lot) but I think it is something that is manageable AND allows me to save large portions of money at a time so that the next phase of my life can be paid for up front with cash and that biggest and worst payment per month (the mortgage) can hopefully stay WAY off my radar.

The reason for this particular post… I have an idea to spare me the cell phone bill above as well, the main reason I am writing this is to get some feedback from others on why more people don’t do this.  I am a person that nearly never talks on the phone if I am not required to for work, my phone gets used for browsing the internet, texting and keeping a calendar if I’m lucky.  It drives me nuts that my biggest bill is for this basic thing which seems like it could be accomplished so many other ways for free with today’s technology.

Nexus 7 Android Tablet

So my plan is to get a Nexus 7 Android Tablet (because I refuse to buy Apple products) and use Google Voice (free service) as my cell service.

The Pros:

  • I wouldn’t have a cell phone bill.
  • I would have a tablet, a small one but it will work better for the things I use my cell phone for.
  • It’s cost is about the same as a new phone would be.
  • I am officially out of contract with my provider next month so I am excited at the idea of not being in contract with anyone (there are Tracfone and other options for that but I still don’t like the recurring fee idea…)

The Cons:

  • No emergency service for calls (when am I ever not around a neighbor or stranger whom I can ask for help or to make a call)
  • Dependant on wifi (when am I ever not around wifi…)
  • I lose my cell phone number.  No Biggie.

Maybe I am over simplifying things?  Why would more people not go this way?  I am hoping for some good feedback but if there is nothing too far out of my realm of considerations I am going to commit to ditching my cell phone, at least for a year, that is saving $1,200.  It is a lifestyle adjustment but I am not so young that I can’t remember a time before cell phones :).  Thoughts?




  1. Macy, with Mini coming along soon, I would at least have the Trac phone (prepay minutes) in case you have to call an ambulance in an emergency. You won’t have time to run to a neighbor’s house (or if you break your leg you wouldn’t be able to anyway). Please do at least that. It will make your mom happier…

    1. I would also say, keep in mind that sometimes it’s not about you being able to contact people quickly, but about people being able to contact you quickly. I would say, as Teri did above, with Mini coming along soon, there may be a time when someone is taking care of her for you and (all forbid) needs to get in touch with you quickly for an emergency. I can’t imagine being unreachable by my family in case of an emergency. 🙁

  2. Wow, Macy, that is wonderful! We both work from home, we took the leap to do without a cell phone. I do have really, really good internet as I depend on it for a living (but the business pays for that!). We have a prepaid cheapie telephone that the person leaving the house takes with him/her, used only for emergencies. We still spend about $15.00 a month on phone cards, but it has been just fine. What we LOVE and cannot do without (besides electricity, water, and internet) is our MagicJack. We now live in Panama, and we are able to call friends and family as if they were next door, and run the business. Our customers do not even know they are calling Central America.

    Yes, it can be done 🙂

  3. Totally on board with your instinct to ditch the typical phone, but as a mother of three, I wonder if, when you have your little one, you might see the emergency call option in a different light.

  4. Simple cell phone services are still out there. Mine is about 35-ish a month. No frills. Some such services companies even take a not-so-predatory business model.

  5. Congrats on your success decreasing / elimisting your debt. Gotta say I agree with Teri. I’ve been tempted at times to forego the cell phone, and I too rarely talk on mine (keep in mind that I still miss having a land line). I spent some time comparing / assessing plans and have my plan below $60 with unlimited data; I would not want to depend solely on wi-fi in truth. There are middle-ways (pre-paid, etc.)… I’ll be staying tuned to see what you decide!

  6. Hi,
    I too am like you I hate my cell phone although I have one. I refuse to text. Anyway, I have a device that plugs in to my computer via my router. I THINK there’s even a way to do this without a computer! You would have to check on their website. Anyway it’s called NetTalk and I’ve had it as a “home phone for going on 2 years. It costs me (get this) 49.00 a year after the cost of the plug in thing which when I got it was I think 29.00. You can call anywhere using this for the low low cost of 49.00 a year.

  7. I agree with Teri. At least get a cheap prepaid phone for emergency use. We cover my stepdaughter with one that is $30/mo. Probably more than you would need, so the cost can be reduced.
    We have an internet provider because well, I couldn’t easily keep up with you without it! 😉 And we have Straighttalk phones. $45/mo each, with unlimited everything.
    Good luck with your decision! You’re an inspiration!

  8. I use google voice and skype exclusively now. The emergency issue is very important for sure. One of those inexpensive prepaid phones always charged and ready to go would be wise.

    There are also those safety gizmos for elderly people that allow them to contact help automatically if they fall, are injured or something else. It maybe worth looking into.

    I would have a core group that touches base with you regularly. It sounds like you live in that kind of community. With mini around you just never know when something might come up.

    https://www1.lifestation.com: 23.95 per month if paid in advance.
    GreatCall 5Star Responder Wireless Personal Security Device: 15 per month.

    Have a plan. That will go a long long way.

  9. Congratulations on the sobering difference in your life style!

    I’d be concerned about not having a simple, pre-paid cell around. I’ve had Tracfone for this purpose for years, phones start at $15…

  10. You can purchase a Trac phone for less than twenty dollars. Some will come with double or triple minutes. Put a prepaid phone time card of twenty dollars on every other month. You now have an emergency phone for only ten dollars a month. Look at a dollar/discount stores for older, less expensive models.
    I keep one charged in my car for emergencies only.

  11. $15 a month for cheap cell for emergencies only and you may be able to stretch that $15 for several months if the minutes do not expire. Otherwise you are making a wise decision with the tablet. To be contract free is a wonderful thing. I am frantically going through boxes of “crap” that if I needed it, well it wouldn’t be in a box now would it? I have a dream of moving out of this 4000+ sq ft monstrosity and let a family enjoy all this room. What were we thinking when we built this? Oh yeah, we were younger and in good health. In one year I want to be in a 400 sq ft cabin attached with a breezeway to another 400 sq ft cabin in the Ozark mountains. I want to live off the grid as much as I can. Hopefully I will be able to use a small wood stove to heat. I don’t want a phone, don’t want cable, or any of the unnecessary junk one does not need. If I can live on $600 a month, I will be thrilled beyond belief. You inspire me.

  12. Hi Macy, of course MiniM will have needs and expenses, but they’re wonderful expenses! As for the phone situation you should go online and explore Republic wireless and their unique new concept. For $299 you can get their Motorola Moto X, a spectacular new phone and get unlimited talk, text, and data for $5/month! For $10-$40/ month you can add cellular on Sprint print to the mix. This is the phone that allows you to change a diaper and answer the phone at the same time! If you have wifi this is way better than the secondary resellers. It’s the way I will go when I’m off contract later this year. Any questions please write me. Be well.. .
    Have a wonderful night!

    1. I can second the Republic Wireless idea, it’s why I came over to the comments section. I’ve been with them on the $10/month plan for a few months now, and it’s great! Tiny bill, but for that you get the same unlimited google voice over wifi (like with your nexus 7 plan), but also have Sprint cell service for an emergency.

      No contract, low price, great features, unlimited everything. It’s like getting the best of the Tracphone and traditional big carrier worlds.

  13. I was trying to cut down also and I have Comcast for internet, it’s discounted if you carry basic also. If I drop basic then internet will cost more. Checked into plugging in laptop to phone for service or wireless and that additional ie hot spot. so stuck. I thought that old phones or a non-working phone could still be used for 911, if so there you go, just keep phone charged just in case. I agree, you should have something for 911 call. do you have insurance on your place and stuff. Are you close enough to a neighbor to access their wifi with code, even if you gave them a couple bucks you would have internet right their in home. Good luck

  14. I went from a Droid smartphone, to a “dumb” flip phone, and now have finally gone the no phone route and just have google voice. I was never really talking or texting, maybe about 14 minutes a month! I do have a 2 year old and my husband still has a flip phone for $20 a month, so we are still covered for emergencies. If I needed a phone for emergencies only, I would try and find one that didn’t have a monthly charge and was just prepaid.

  15. Check out Consumer Cellular, they have plans starting at $10 a month and if you have any AT&T phone no need to buy a new one.

    But, the one thing I must disagree with you about is the iPad vs other tablets. I resisted Apple for years then I had an iPhone for work and I was hooked. Now I use an iPhone on Consumer Cellular (actually 2 my husband’s as well) for $40 a month. And the iPad & apps available make it worth the price. I’ve had other tablets and there is just no comparison. As Mini Miller grows the number and variety of educational apps will become increasingly important and we are talking months from now not years. ☺️

  16. Do you have a land line? With a baby on the way unless you are very close with your neighbors I would recommend that and maybe a tracfone as someone else suggested. I love ooma for Internet phone. One last note don’t get sucked into all the baby gear. You really don’t need it. Great blog!

  17. I’d add a car repair line item for sure. Casey does 95% of our car maintenance but materials still cost money.

    I’d say do Google voice for majority of calls on WiFi, then get a cheap flip phone and a car charger on ebay for 911 calls. You don’t need minutes or a provider to call 911, google around about that to double check. We gave up smart phones 3 years ago (though I will be getting one through my new job for work purposes) and now I have a $10 flip phone from eBay that Casey loaded with $80 worth of minutes from page plus. I’ve used $8 worth of that so far in two and a half months.

    Sounds like you’re doing this already, but definitely hoard as much cash as possible before you leave your job. And check out Early Retirement Extreme and the Mr. Money Mustache forums for ideas on keeping food costs low. It’s a great, supportive community for living below your means on purpose.

    Casey and I sketched out our TH living expenses once we move in and shred our $450/mo 4-year land loan. It’ll be like $600-800/mo for both of us, and that’s with plenty of wiggle room. The rest of our income will be hoarded/invested. Please share your health insurance journey if you are comfortable doing so. 🙂

  18. please make sure you have access to 911 service. a new baby and a huge puppy are not always a good combination. if i were you, i would put rails of some sort on top shelving units where heavy items are stored. also get some kind of insurance on your real property, replacing contents alone can be expensive. i, too, am interested in your health insurance choices. perhaps you should inquire about medicaid until you come to a definite decision, especially for baby costs. wishing only the best for you and family . . .

  19. tmobile has unlimited text/data 100 minutes phone for $40 month…..with skype/hangouts etc you would be more than ok with nexus 7

  20. …not sure if it was mentioned before, but you can dial 911 from any cell phone whether it is in service or not…or at least you can do that in new york, but i believe it’s universal…i have extra cell phones – one that i keep in my first aid kit, in my car’s glove box, and so on…so don’t toss your old cell phone or simply get a cheap one that can hold a charge and make sure it stays charged…

  21. …another thing to consider is that there are cell phone contracts out their (e.g., straight talk) that only cost $45 for everything included…that’s a pretty good price…no contract either…just need the phone and to purchase a sim card to start…

  22. The only issue with using Google Voice over WiFi on a tablet is that you still need a VoIP app to actually place the calls for you, like Talkatone. I used that on my iPod Touch for a while (a couple years ago), and it worked well, as long as it had a strong WiFi connection. The Google Voice app does do texting though.

    I set Jessica up with an $80 plan from Page Plus. The great (unique) thing about it is that it doesn’t expire for a year. It has 2,000 minutes, which I doubt she’ll use, so the price is just about as low as you can get for cell service.

    Also remember that if you get a cellular tablet with a T-Mobile radio, they’re giving away 200MB of free data per month. That could be great if you use WiFi mostly.

    Anyway, I thought about completely getting rid of my cell phone for a while too, but I ended up deciding on my $10 Virgin Mobile flip phone with 1200 minutes/SMS for $30/month.

  23. Definitely get a Tracphone for emergencies as previously mentioned.
    I am looking at transferring my land line over to VOIPo, running off my internet connection. My Verizon land line bill is killing me at $70 per month for nothing. VOIPo has a 2 year plan for $149 which works out to around $7 per month. Their normal monthly rate is $15.
    I don’t have a smart phone; I have an old stupid phone which my employer pays for. I love the Nexus 7 and would love to get one, but I can’t justify it at this time. It is a great form factor and the display on the Nexus 7 is awesome. If you feel you can use Google Voice effectively, I would say go for it!

  24. Tracfone is a great alternative- I used it for years and then gave my phone and number to my parents when my needs changed a bit. With a phone that includes “tripling minutes” and a (valid for) 90-day/ 120-minute card at $20, you get 120 minutes per month for about $7 and any minutes you don’t use stay are banked or rolled-over as long as you keep your subscription active. Emergencies, business, and a reachable phone number… For those who don;’t need “constant connection”, it’s one of the best fits I’ve yet found.

    I have a bit more connection with Boost, which has a shrinking unlimited plan. Over 18 months, your unlimited bill goes from $50 down to $35 ($5 drops for every six months of on time payments).

  25. Curious how you got your car insurance down to $38/month. That’s great! I live in Canada, so your information may not be applicable to me, but I am interested who you use anyway. Love that you are going through your expenses and seeing how much they have changed since you have gone tiny. It inspired me to do the same and now I’m seeing how to cut costs with my cell phone that I use only for a limited amount of texting. This post is right up my alley as far as looking at ways to reducing costs. : )

    1. Once it’s paid off I decreased the coverage. I just use a local insurance agent, no big company associated. I do believe I have decided to cancel the cell all together and just go the tablet route with google voice, with a back-up phone for emergency calls only in the car! I think it will be a good move!

      1. Macy, if you’re going to have a back-up phone in the car at least bring it in the house with you when you’re inside with Mini and Denny. You might not be able to spare seconds to run to the car for the phone in an emergency!

        1. In the house I will have a phone via my tablet, so long as I have wifi (work and home) I am not without a phone via Google Voice, it is only in the car that I may not have access to wifi and so MAY need an emergency phone. I think it is safe, I am comfortable with it! 🙂

          1. How do you deal with wifi in a tiny home? Is there some way to string a cable for a modem out from your landowners, or do you share your landowner’s wifi? Or maybe even pay for data from your cellphone provider to use a phone as a hotspot?

          2. Hi Holly, I use the services around me, I don’t actually pay for internet. One of the perks of living downtown near coffee shops, there are lots of in range sources of open wifi 🙂 I DID try going through my cell phone for a while but it was not a good enough service. There are lots of other options for portable internet jacks through cell companies if you didn’t have open wifi networks around.

  26. I went the way of the MVNO (virtual cell companys) for my cell service. Airvoice has a few nice plans and they use the ATT Cell towers. Using Google voice I take most calls on wifi so incur no cell charges but I have the back up of the cell for only 10 bucks every 3 months. You do need to provide your own cell phone but you could get a no contract Moto G for 179. Best thing that 10 bucks goes in as credit on your account. Each call, txt or data use comes off that 10 credit. The Credits never expire so once you have the account for a while with little use you have a nice balance there for heavy cell use on vacation or such.

  27. I currently have a magic jack for my landline which is a voip phone @ $30 per year, my internet service and a tracphone which give me 3x’s the minutes, texts and data. I buy a one year card @ $99 – $200 depending on what you need and the minutes rollover once you refill before they expire. $130 per year + your internet service isn’t too bad.

  28. Just so you know in case no one has mentioned it – you cannot call 911 with google voice. I’ve tried, it doesn’t work.
    Ting is super awesome if you end up needing a phone, they’re sprint with free roaming on Verizon so best coverage area if you’re traveling.
    I’m curious how you manage not to pay for any internet? Even at home?

  29. You should consider buying a lot! You can find good lots that cost less than $5k which is what you would be paying for a couple of years of renting the property. Once paid off…your monthly bills would be max $82!!!

    1. I will be doing that soon enough, I am saving a lot of cash to buy a lot outright to build my next home on, my tiny house will be relocated to it once I get the money saved up, I have a particular set of criteria in mind (a water source, close to downtown and a view!) for my next lot though and it will run a bit more than 5k :).

  30. If you haven’t already, I also recommend getting a car*charger* for the Trac phone. Cell phones lose a charge even when they’re not being used. If it just hangs out in your car all the time (b/c you have wifi in your house, so no need to bring it inside), then it’s likely it could be forgotten about, and be dead by the time you need it.

    Having a car charger can mean you plug it in to charge every time you’re driving, so it never gets low! 🙂

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