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How I Could Find $10,000 Per Year if Necessary

This article was written by in Frugality. 14 comments.


Recently, JLP discovered that if he needed to, he could “find” an extra $13,000 per year by cutting back some of his discretionary expenses. By eliminating beer, soda, and a number of other unnecessary but nice expenditures, the savings can add up quickly. (I’m a bit surprised that JLP spends $50 per month on beer. But I’m not a beer drinker, so I’m unfamiliar with those types of expenses.)

My situation is similar. Once I was able to dig myself out of a hole and began earning income outside of my day job, I decided I should allow myself some of the more enjoyable aspects of life rather than wallow in extreme frugality.

But if I had to cut back, could I still do it?

Cable television and movies

I have a Netflix subscription I could cancel if necessary. In fact, I’ve considered getting rid of the service already, as I’m not an optimal user. I initiated my subscription while I was starting to earn more money but didn’t want to make the jump to another cable television service beyond the basic 13 channels. Netflix currently costs $15 per month, or a savings of $180 each year if I cancel.

I’m currently paying about $20 for an extended Comcast cable television service including all the standard channels plus an HBO package, the basic high-definition package, the sports high-definition package, and a digital video recorder. The $20 price includes the high-speed broadband internet connection, as well. I could drop HBO and the HD sports package to reduce this cost to $0, a yearly savings of $240. Even paying $0, I could still have my internet connection, which is important for continuing my extracurricular activities.

Meals and dining out

Based on my progress so far, I expect to spend about $1,400 dining out and ordering delivery from local restaurants. That includes off-campus lunch with my co-workers. I could shave this expense by making smarter choices at the groceries, forcing myself to cook, and motivating myself to bring in homemade lunches to the office. For a full year, I could probably save about $1,500 by cooking more and eating out less.

Communication

After purchasing a BlackBerry 8830 to keep me connected to the world when it’s probably inappropriate to be so, Verizon Wireless suggested the unlimited data plan for a total, including both voice and data, of $80 per month. This saves me from being charged per byte for every email or text message I transmit or receive and every web site I browse. Those charges would add up, but $80 per month isn’t slim, either.

I do not have a land line and I have no intention of getting one. I recently signed up for Skype so that can be used in some cases, but I believe I’ll need to keep a minimum cell phone if driven to extremes. I could choose a prepaid cell phone option and reduce my $80 per month expense to $20 every three months. If so, I could save $880 throughout the year.

Live entertainment

I spent over $200 at the Appel Farm Arts and Music Festival this past weekend, including admission, snacks, gifts, and tee-shirts which functioned well for a change of clothing when we were drenched in sweat. I’ve spent several hundred dollars on Broadway shows so far this year. I intend on seeing more concerts and shows this summer. I’ve also spent close to $200 on the “Goodbye Shea” package of 7 tickets to Mets games during the last season at Shea Stadium, with the first game scheduled for this upcoming Saturday. I expect I’ll spend more this summer on souvenirs and stadium food.

I see perhaps an average of one movie a month with my girlfriend, though that may be overestimating. We aim for matinées but they’re not discounted much.

Let’s just estimate that I could probably save about $2,200 throughout the entire year by cutting out my live entertainment expenses, including related travel.

Vacation

I haven’t purchased my tickets yet, but I plan to visit my family in California for Thanksgiving again this year. The flight will likely cost around $600. My girlfriend and I haven’t solidified details surrounding our summer vacation yet, either, but I would expect what we decide may cost from $600 to $1,000. Add in my spring visit to the west coast, and we can estimate $2,000 spent on vacations per year.

The little things

I buy books, music, and videos (DVDs, Blu-Ray discs, etc.) to enjoy. I also slowly work on a coin collection which involves purchasing new releases from the U.S. Mint and perhaps some coins from shows or eBay. I purchase miscellaneous electronic equipment and gadgets occasionally, such as last year’s TomTom GPS device, last year’s Sharp Aquos HDTV and last year’s now-extinct HD DVD player.

While I haven’t spent as much this year, I could see looking for a new computer by the end of the year. Let’s say I could save about $3,000 a year by cutting all of this out of my life for a while.

$10,000 may not be enough if I’m faced with a crisis. I’m glad I have a healthy emergency fund which can help me recover. I intend on reducing expenses when possible before tapping the emergency savings accounts, however.

What would you do to find an extra $10,000 or more over the course of a year?

Updated September 8, 2011 and originally published June 10, 2008. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Luke Landes, also known as Flexo, is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about him and follow Luke Landes on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Kyle

I could cut back on lunches out during the week. The area where I work doesn’t really have much in the way of inexpensive, tasty choices. Other than that, I really don’t spend much money on stuff. I could never cut back on beer, though. $500 per month is well worth it for my sanity.

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avatar Brian

Beer, and especially soda, are not unnecessary.

Other than that, great article ;-)

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avatar Christopher

I’ve spent some time doing the math on my own budget, and there is no easy way to save anywhere near $10,000 in a year from my current spending habits. It just isn’t there – and that’s ok with me. I prefer to live pretty simply. Here’s my breakdown:

Category: Annual Savings
Cable/Movies: $300 (netflix and the occasional movie theatre)
Meals/Dining out: $800 (we already bring lunch to work, but we could eat out less)
Communication: $0 (no cell phones, and internet at the library would cost us more in gas than $15/month)
Vacation: $1,000 (this would eliminate all visits with out of state family – not a happy proposition)
Commuting: $0 (I already carpool with three other riders)
Little things: $0 (we don’t buy gadgets, and already shop at thrift stores/craigslist for many things)

Total savings: $2,100.

Like I said, that’s not very much. In a drastic emergency, we could tighten our belts quite a bit and live on nearly nothing. But as long as we’re employed, I don’t think we need to revise any of our spending habits.

Good post, Flexo. It’s always helpful to know where your budget could be cut if it was necessary.

Chris

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avatar Lazy Man

This is a good exercise. I should try it. Since I’ve been trying to live on my minimal income while trying to build a business, I’ve found that I really don’t have a lot of fat to cut. A lot of it is the occasional trip, but I’m pretty obligated to do that with my wife… she does well enough that we can afford it and I can’t say that I want to live cheap to prove that I can.

Where in CA are you coming out to in Thanksgiving?

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avatar Jennson

Interesting exercise. Here’s my take on the categories you listed

Category: Annual Savings
Cable/Movies: I live with my parents right now and the condo I’m moving into actually has a basic cable/internet package that is built into the maintenance fees. no savings there.
Meals/Dining out: This is probably where I’d be able to save the most. If i packed a lunch every day, I could very well save close to $12-15 a week, which comes to about $600-$750 for the year (50 week work year). This doesn’t include occasionally dining out for dinner. I tend the dine out during the summers the most, if I conservatively estimate savings of $30-$50 (drinks and everything) a week for just dining out with friends, that’s another $1500-2500 easy.
Communication: I could probably take out my cell phone if I really wanted to, but I find it comes in handy once in a while. If i were to take it out, I could save about $500, counting the landline replacement that I would have to get.
Vacation: $1,000-$1500. Lately I’ve been going out on occasional trips with friends, which can really eat into savings with gas prices these days.
Commuting: $0 There’s no easy way for me to avoid commuting. I have to drive to work every day and I am the only one I know who commutes to this office from where I live with the hours I have. I have a couple of other friends that arrive to work later in the day because their hours are in another department. It just wouldn’t work. If I were to switch to public transportation and got a job in NYC, then I probably would save about $600-$720 by doing so.
Little things: I could probably save about $600 a year if I stopped buying CDs, DVD’s and comic books. Maybe even save as much as $1000. If you count concerts, that’s another $300 or so.

minimum savings -$4,700
maximum savings – $7,270 and up

who am I kidding? I’m single. Let me enjoy my money once in a while.

that being said, I just bought this condo so it’s likely I will begin paring back some of my expenses.

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avatar matty dread

you are lucky your cable and internet are so cheap. I pay $85 for hd and dvr on comcast with a package above basic. Internet is $50, but my wifes company pays for that.

i could wipe out cable but I’d be hard pressed to get rid of netflix.

my land line phone could go ($60 a month) but my wife is against it.

adjusted my car insurance recently saving…..$14. no help.

tivo went away because of dvr from comcast..$15.

beer fund…hmmm, not cutting that….

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avatar Chris

For me and my wife:

Eating out less: $200 a month X 12 months: $2400
Netflix: $10 X 12 months: $120
Cable: $45 X 12 months: $540
Vacations: $1500 a year
“Fun” money for his and her: $200 X 12 months: $2400

Hmmm…that is $6960 I believe, without much thought. We already try and live below our means, and save $1500 a month into our emergency fund (that is after 401k and bills are paid).

Good exercise though, helps to know what I can cut if needed.

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avatar JLP

I didn’t make it clear but that $50 per month is for both beer and wine.

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avatar CJJboy

Could you share how you get the comcast deal? I am esepcially interested in the sports package. I am currently paying comcast for $18.90 for a limited HD service.

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avatar Luke Landes ♦127,475 (Platinum)

CJJboy: The Comcast deal is included for everyone who lives in my complex. It’s basically a “free cable tv and internet” deal, but I added a few extras to bring my total up to about $20 for everything.

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avatar Solomon

Ebay is my biggest money drain. When I feel myself starting to slip into buying mode, I remove it from my favourites.

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avatar Deb

There’s no way we could trim our budget by $10k. We’re fairly budget minded as is, but not frugal to the point of squeeking. We’ve always shopped second hand, we sold the gas guzzling Ford 250 two years ago, and with that money, we purchased two small 4 cylinder trucks that we paid cash for (second hand, of course).

But here are some changes/reductions that we’ve made, in addition to some conservation efforts (We live in Portland, OR – conservation is big here):

1. We drive less. I telecommute, and hubby flies to other locales when he works (clients cover the cost, or it’s a tax write off). So our gas expenses are fairly minimal.
We’ve both changed our driving habits. We ride our bikes more. We carpool for errands & group them in a circuitous route, and try to save them for one-two days a week.
We don’t drive above 60 mph or leadfoot. We don’t jackrabbit at starts, we don’t gun it at yellow lights – and that alone has cut our fuel use by 20%. That’s a savings of approximately $25 per month.

2. We reduced our electric bill by 20% each month –
by turning the hotwater heater down to 120f and wrapping it in insulation, turning off the pc/printer when not in use, using CFL bulbs (they’re much cheaper now), and unplugging energy vampires like the microwave, cellphone chargers, electric toothbrush when not in use. $20 per month savings avg.

3. Canceled the gym – $34 a month.

4. Canceled Netflix – $14 per month.

5. Reduced our water bill by 10-15% a month –
by capturing cold water (while waiting for hot), and hubby made rain barrels a few years ago. We use glass jars at the sink, bucket in the shower. Water goes into dog dishes, cat dishes, houseplants, potted plants, and even into one of our 4 rainbarrels (for veggie garden drip irrigation). Savings of $7 per month avg.

6. We changed our grocery shopping habits, and shop for most of our groceries at Winco, a discount, bulk grocery store. Whenever at a grocery store, we cruise the quick sale meat section – you can save a LOT of money there. Just freeze or use it immediately, it is perfectly SAFE to eat.
We eat out less, cook at home more, and eat lots of leftovers. We trimmed our groceries and eating out bill by a good $100 per month (we never ate out a lot anyway, and rarely at an expensive place).

7. Hubby does virtually all auto maintenence himself – oil changes, filters, tune ups, belts, brakes, shocks. He probably saves us at least $400 a year, maybe more.
Since our trucks are second hand and we have cash to replace them, we cut our auto insurance back to the legal minimum. Savings of $40 per month on insurance.

Amounts to a savings of $3,280 a year, which isn’t a huge amount, but is the equivilant of a month’s worth of bills.

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avatar Chad

You can easily spend $300+ on alcohol. I’m not sure how you’re surprised about this…

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avatar Kate

Find another $10k per year? Yikes! I don’t think we could do it without working another job somewhere.

Cable television and movies: Nope. We don’t have a TV, so no cable. We use a digital projector to watch free DVD’s from the library. I had a Netflix account. It’s on indefinite hold. Really nothing to cut there.

Meals and dining out: Very little to cut there. We eat almost all meals at home, or on expense account when my husband is traveling for work. We’ll eat out for a “date night” or special occasion once a month or less. I cook from scratch, comparison shop, buy staples in bulk and even wholesale occasionally. So, if we cut eating out to absolutely zero, we might save $1000 per year, but I doubt it would amount to that much.

Communication: Here’s an area we could do better if we had to. We pay for one cell phone plan, and dh’s work pays for another. We could and should switch to a pay as you go plan. Also we could switch to slower internet service, though when dh works from home, a fast connection is a really a necessity. If we absolutely had to do it, we could save probably $1000 per year there.

Live entertainment: Again, this isn’t a major expense in our budget. Occasionally we’ll go to fairs or shows out in the country during the summer. Perhaps once per year there’s a concert we’ll pay to see. There is a conference I attend each winter for education and networking opportunities. If we cut everything, maybe we’d save $500 per year.

Vacation – Other than visiting family, or DH tacking on some leisure time to a business trip, we haven’t spent any serious money on a vacation in about three years. We’re looking at stuff to do at National Parks within easy driving distance for the foreseeable future. Bus trips to NYC are easy and cheap for us, which makes for great daytrip possibilities. I doubt I would cut the family occasion travel unless the need were dire. Cutting everything else might net us $500-$700 per year.

The little things: Again, not much there to cut. We don’t do much impulse buying. We get our books, music and movies from the library. We have very cheap hobbies (such as dumpster diving), or hobbies that repay their expenses (such as gardening and cooking).

So if we cut it back to the bone, we’d still only save something like $3000 per year. We could save a small amount of money by eating more vegetarian meals and foregoing a few other minor comestible treats, I suppose. But that still wouldn’t get us to $10k delta. Getting another job or taking in a boarder would be the only thing I could think of to get us another $7000 per year over and above our cuts.

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