The little things…starting to trim the budget

by Debt Destroyer on August 12, 2008

Here in the Debt Defier household it feels like we’ve been wrestling some very big ideas lately. But as you seasoned vets out there can attest, the little things in life matter just as much if not more than the big ones.

This is true in our financial lives too.

Below are a few recent examples of how little things made a difference in our budget:

Earlier this afternoon I was paying some bills and noticed a flyer in my electric bill informing me that I could pay my bill online with a credit card. I thought what a great way to save a stamp and to earn some more cashback rewards, so I go online to set it up. I thought I noticed something in the fine print in the acceptance agreement about fees, but I didn’t pay too close attention when clicking through. Well sure enough, they charge a $4.95 fee to pay with a credit card.

Needless to say, I canceled the online payment and sent it off in the mail.

Another example of a little thing that can make a difference, is our mortgage insurance. Every month we pay an extra $32 for mortgage insurance because we didn’t put at least 20% down when we bought our house.

This $32 annoys me to no end.

Don’t let your brokers tell you not too worry about this because everyone else pays it. Save up a little longer and come up with the larger down payment so you don’t have to bother with this pain. When I get the house painted, I’m thinking about getting another appraisal to see whether or not the improvements we have made has pushed us over the 20% hump.

I’ll end with a positive example of little things making a difference.

The family set off on a shopping excursion to Target this weekend, we don’t get out much so we always enjoy these trips. And to make this trip even sweeter we had our 10% off coupon. The trip started off with an act of selflessness by my wife. She decided to return a pair of shorts that cost $21 (What a team player!).

Then we decided we didn’t really need much other than diapers, wipes and some hair-gel for me (yes, Carly Simon wrote that song about me). So we were already doing better than our normal routine of load up the cart with everything because it’s 10% off (We’ve been known to use two carts at times).

And if that wasn’t enough, we then decided that our son could poop and pee in store brand diapers instead of the name brand ones in which he has been relieving himself into ($5 difference).

But our biggest find was on the way to the checkout. While glancing at allergy medicine, we noticed that little kid humidifiers were on clearance. This must be a our lucky day! This spring we decided that we needed a new one for our daughter and here was the lovely Hello Kitty one that she flipped for a few months ago.


Hello, Kitty!

When we strolled to the checkout with only four items and then plopped down the 10% off coupon, it was actually fun paying the bill for a change.

Hey…I told you we don’t get our much :)

But this got me to thinking that I can’t be the only one who finds the wonder in these small financial discoveries. So, I was hoping that you could share some of the little things that help or hinder your finances?

Until next time,


{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

The Happy Rock August 12, 2008 at 11:40 pm

Great job DD and family. The awareness and behavior changes start to compound as time goes on. Keep up the desire to change, because it is worth it. Given your guys recent history, I would really urge you to consider cutting up the credit cards. At this point, worrying about credit card rewards isn’t were you financial energy needs to be. The sole focus is on changing your spending habits and financial behaviors. Spending significantly less than you make is the only way to get where you want to go. With the card shredded you are avoiding temptation while you financial discipline gets built back up.


Momma August 13, 2008 at 10:49 am

It’s always the little things! One “little” thing we do is coupon clipping for grocery shopping. I even developed and marketed my own coupon organizing system to make it easy and less time consuming. I’m not shopping for name brands and totally stocking up on everything (hint.. you can get GREAT deals on diapers) for our family of 5+ for about $90 a week. Check out my blog because I write about this all the time.

Another little thing we do that makes a difference is hanging socks, underwear, and wash/dish cloths on a drying rack instead of drying them in the dryer. It saves money on the electric bill two ways. 1) we don’t have to use the dryer as much and 2) the air conditioner doesn’t have to work as hard to cool the house with the dryer going less.

Also, pay your bills through your bank with online billpay and save yourself those stamps! They do add up over time.


Ed August 13, 2008 at 1:44 pm

Cloth diapers…no kidding http://www.fuzzibunz.com/.
They ain’t what they used to be. They’re better for the environment, and cheaper in the long run. Plus, I think my 2 yr old likes them better. Oh, yeah, kids in cloth diapers tend to get potty trained earlier.
My kids are 7, 4, and 2 and we have been free from the cost of disposable diapers for months.


Sid Savara - Personal Development and Life Hacking August 13, 2008 at 5:05 pm

I agree, it’s always the sum of all the little things that add up. I like how you pay attention and noticed the 4.95 fee for the credit card. Funny enough, if possible, I try to pay utilities etc with a card instead of a check to take advantage of the 1 or 2% cash back. Every little bit counts!


tiffanie August 13, 2008 at 9:49 pm

i love couponing. that saves a little here and there that adds up to large savings over time. also? i like to do online surveys which may just bring in a few bucks here or there, but over time it’s one of the sources of income that is helping to fund our vacation next month :)


Johann Buch August 14, 2008 at 8:24 am

Wow, I actually got excited as I read about your savings! I am the same way, and am always thrilled to find a hidden saving somewhere! Where I used to live, every year they had this book that you could buy that was just a book of coupons. All of the coupons were buy one get on free. It had pizza deliveries, and other restaurants in it, and also some retail stores. The book cost $25, but after using it two or three times it was already paid for, and had hundreds of coupons that were actually worthwhile using all over the city. I pretty much kept it with me in my car wherever I went . . .


Jay August 14, 2008 at 6:19 pm

My latest money-saving device is never ordering a drink at a restaurant. Even if you only eat out once in a while, you can save a couple of dollars by sticking with water instead of springing for a coke or a beer. It’s healthy, it’s cheap, and it doesn’t really end up detracting from your meal. Replacing soda with water is a great way to save money in restaurants and at home.


Ed August 15, 2008 at 9:09 am

transition to Soy milk.
1: it is better for you
2: it doesn’t spoil as fast as cows milk
3: its cheaper (Trader Joes)
4: I have found that I prefer the taste over cows milk.


Kirk August 15, 2008 at 5:15 pm

i’m also a firm believer of the importance of the little things that matter… buying generic medicine has saved me some cash… you should try it if you haven’t yet..


John (Debt Defier) August 15, 2008 at 7:33 pm

@The Happy Rock – Interesting idea of cutting up the cards, but I don’t think we’re quite ready for that yet. :)

@Momma – You have a nice blog, a friend of mine was talking about the grocery game a couple of weeks ago, it sounds like something I should check out.

@Ed – We toyed with the idea of cloth diapers, but no local daycares would use them and instead of using two different setups we took the lazy way out and went disposable.

As for soy milk, we might have to try this. We are currently Rice Milk drinkers due to my daughter’s allergies, and it is WAY more expensive than normal milk. Sadly, there are no Trader Joes in my neck of the woods.

@Sid – I’d like to be able to earn rewards on my utility payments, but it’s not worth $4.95.

@tiffanie – Those are two great examples of little things making a difference. Since you like couponing, be sure to check out Momma’s blog.

@Kirk – That is a good tip. Surprisingly we are on very few prescriptions, but we do choose store brand OTC meds whenever we can (I take ibuprofen like candy during tennis season).

Thanks again for all the comments!


The First Creditor August 17, 2008 at 2:47 pm

I love those red price tags! My son just turned 1 year this past week, and we had his birthday presents purchased months ago! We actually got them at Target as well. I really like the idea of finding Christmas/birthday gifts throughout the year when they are on clearance. We also buy the majority of his wardrobe when Old Navy has their 50% off sale. I think it’s important to not make purchases when the calendar or season dictates, but rather when low prices do.


fern August 19, 2008 at 4:09 pm

well, i was pleased as punch when i staved off a $5 monthly increase on my AT&T combined phone/Internet bill. When i announced i would cancel due to the price, they said they could give me a $5 monthly “credit” due to the fact i was a “loyal customer,” and on top of that the kind rep pointed out i could also save $3 a month more if i dropped long distance. (I use calling cards and my cell phone for that.) So that was my feel-good event of the week.


Scott @ The Passive Dad August 19, 2008 at 8:33 pm

I finally canceled my data plan with At&t and saved $30 a month. Little expenses like this can add up quickly over the years.

Another one to watch about fees- the home mortgage lender. They want you to set-up some fast pay or easy pay account for a fee. It’s the same thing as online banking, if you set it up for automatic payments. Save your money and do it yourself.


nick August 21, 2008 at 10:06 pm

Realizing that you don’t need most of the stuff we all buy and then taking advantage of great deals when it is something you need really makes a difference. Great article.


Brad January 10, 2009 at 6:44 pm

It’s so true! I stopped buying coffee for a year and saved $500! The little things really do add up!


Diet Blog June 2, 2009 at 2:54 pm

It’s totally great that the little things DO add up. It’s very rewarding at the end. My girlfriend and I drastically cup back on going out to eat, and even though sometimes we think “30 bucks for dinner isn’t that bad”, if we save that $30 every week we have a lot of money!


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