How I Reduced Our Gas Bill by Over 40%

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How I Reduced Our Gas Bill

My much anticipated gas bill just arrived and let me tell you Bob, I am over the moon. By making just 3 small changes I was able to reduce our bill over 40%!! Holy Cow Man. I had no idea I was going to be able to reduce our bill that much by making just 3 simple changes.

Turning off the pilot light to our gas fireplace.

Did you know if you have a gas fireplace, turning the pilot light off when it’s not in use can save an average of $7 – $10 a month? Yes Sirree Bob it sure can!

Turning down the heat on our water heater.

And turning down the water heater? Instead of constantly having 140 degree water at our fingertips, I turned it down to 120 degrees. True, it feels awesome to stand under the hot water on a cold day, but again, heating water is expensive. {Plus we also saved money on our water bill last month as well!}

Turing down our thermostat.

You really only need to heat the house to comfort when you are home. And since Lucy and I are the only one home most days, I decided to put on my coat and lower the thermostat to 62 during the day and then up it again to 65 about an hour before the HH comes home.

I still can’t believe I was able to save us over 40% off our gas bill. It’s nuts. Why didn’t I think to do it sooner?

What are YOUR favorite ways to reduce your heating bill during the winter months?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.



Money Saving Tip – Buy the Floor Model and Save Big

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red costco entertainment cabinet

Just  like Christmas decorations or gardening supplies, furniture is a seasonal product for Costco. Every January and June Costco Warehouses all over the country are flooded with couches, dining room tables, bed sets and accent pieces.  Well this year there was something I spotted right away. The red accent table above. As soon as I saw it in the warehouse I knew it would be perfect for our family room.

abigail accent cabinet

But I just couldn’t justify spending $279.99 for it. So I waited… and waited and waited.

red curio cabinet

And then finally last week I found the floor model on sale for $99 at the back of the store. There wasn’t a scratch on it so I swooped it up and I scored $180.99 off the original sale price.

That’s about 65% off. Not to shabby if you ask me!

Have you bought furniture from Costco before? Were you happy with it?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Penny Pinching Tip – Pay Bills Online Instead of Mailing Them

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Penny Pinching Tip -  Pay Bills Online Instead on Mailing Them

It sometimes surprises me how people don’t take advantage of technology to save money. I realize some people aren’t great with computers or shun the online world for a lot of reasons, but when it comes to saving me cash, I’m all in. Take simply paying your bills online, whether through a free bill pay program from your bank or through the company’s website. Let’s do some math shall we:

If you mail 100 bills a year via good ol’ snail mail:

  • 100 stamps would cost $49
  • 50 security envelopes would cost $2 {assuming at least half of your bills come with their own return envelope}
So right off the bat you are saving over $50, not to mention the cost of checks and any possible late fees if the payments are lost in the mail. Then there’s security to think about. I know some of you are cautious and uneasy about putting your info online, but statistics show personal information is much more vulnerable to theft if it’s on paper and physically moving through the postal system.
Another perk? You can use your credit card to pay many of those bill online and rack up points or miles! So there are all sorts of reasons to pay those bills online. For me, there’s no going back!
Do you pay your bills online or do you prefer the Pony Express method?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

The Best Foods for Eating Well on a Tight Budget

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The Best Foods for Eating Well on a Tight BudgetJust one generation ago, cooking from scratch was the way to save money.  Produce was cheap and convenience came at a cost.  Things have totally flipped, though.  In the height of couponing, convenience came next to free.  So, now that tides are shifting and peeps are trying to get back to eating basics, it has become maddeningly difficult.

High real food costs make feeding your family well A LOT more difficult.  Add food costs to the fact that we are an entire generation raised up on convenience foods–making KNOWING how to cook from scratch on a budget a steep learning curve, and you’ve got a recipe {pun intended} for frustration.

dried white beans

If you want to start feeding your family nutritious whole foods, but don’t have the budget or know where to start, here’s a quick guide to get your started:

  1. Beans and Lentils.  Not the canned variety, either.  Dried beans are cheap, and actually, surprisingly easy to prepare.   They are an excellent source of protein, perfect for meatless dishes {which will significantly reduce costs}, and can be made in bulk so that you can create your own convenience food as needed.  Check out my recipe index to find tons of ideas on ways to use dried beans.
  2. Rice.  Rice and beans, beans and rice.  Everyone knows these two are kind of the staples of cheap whole food diets.  Rice is still relatively affordable, and when used to enhance a meal, it is a great staple.  It’s easy to digest, and can add calories to budget friendly soups.  The only thing is if you have blood sugar issues, it’s probably best to avoid.  It’s also a great to add to chicken meals, etc. because it allows you to cut back slightly on the amount of meat you need per person–which on a budget, is helpful.
  3. Frozen vegetables.  Don’t be tricked into thinking you have to have fresh veggies.  Frozen veggies are much cheaper than fresh.  Lots of people think that frozen veggies equal mush, but that’s just because they are preparing them improperly.  Roasted frozen veggies are awesome.  Try my roasted green beans, they will totally change your mind.  The best part of frozen veggies is that they are usually picked at the height of the season and then flash frozen, which means, you don’t have to worry about sticking to only seasonal choices.spinach
  4. Spinach, Kale, and/or Arugula.  Start a window box, small container, etc. of super foods.  You can grow them indoors pretty much all winter, and outdoors from early spring to late fall {provided you move them to the shade in the heat of summer}.  You don’t have to have a massive garden to add tons of nutrients to your diet.  Add them to your smoothies for a nutritional boost.  Even if there is no way to grow them yourself, these are the cost effective ones to buy.  A bag a week will run you under $2.00, but add a ton of nutrients to your diet.
  5. Chicken Thighs or Bone-in Chicken.  Get over the skinless boneless chicken breast thing.  Pound for pound, breast  is waaaay more expensive.  Buy chicken thighs, or even better, bone-in chicken and remove it from the bone after cooking to add to recipes.  It will cost you significantly less and it’s a great way to add animal proteins to your diet without breaking the bank.fresh eggs
  6. Eggs.  Eggs are still a cheap source of protein {despite the recent surge in price}.  Think outside the basic scrambled egg and add hard-boiled eggs to cost-effective salads.  You can also scramble them and use them as your protein source in a stir fry.
  7. Canned Tuna.  A serving of tuna can provide 30 grams of lean protein–all for under $2.00 {even less if you find a great sale}.  You can make tuna salads, tuna casseroles, or just a classic sandwich.  There’s a reason athletes/bodybuilders love this stuff–it’s a cost effective protein.  {If you are worried about the mercury content, check out safe consumption guidelines by weight}.
  8. Bananas.  Bananas are a great source of potassium, and can be added to baked goods, eaten plain, sliced over pancakes/oatmeal.  They can even be drizzled in melted chocolate and frozen for a healthier dessert option.  At less than $.60/lb., they are a pretty cheap fruit source.Grain Free Granola
  9. Oats.  Plain dried oats are cheap, cheap, cheap, and they stick with you for hours.  They are a pretty good source of thiamin, folate, and magnesium.  You can make oatmeal, granola, muffins, etc. all for about .$15 a serving.
  10. Nut Butters.  Peanut butter, almond butter, etc. have protein, fats, and necessary vitamins and minerals–a combination that will satisfy your taste buds and your appetite.  They are great for snacks {apples dips in peanut butter, slathered on celery} and adding flavor to oatmeal and baked goods.  Best of all, they are relatively cheap when you break them down into serving costs.
  11. Potatoes.  Unless you have blood sugar issues, potatoes are a super cheap way to get carbs, vitamin C, fiber, potassium, etc. into your diet.  They are super versatile as far as prep goes, and most people love ‘em.  I can usually pick up a 10lb bag for around $2.00.Heirloom Tomato Sauce Recipe
  12. Canned/Jarred Tomato Sauce.  Look for low sugar options and feel free to spice them up a bit with your own seasoning prowess {i.e. add Italian seasoning or garlic poweder to kick up the flavor}.  Tomato sauce has vitamin A & C, and adds tons of flavor to more than just spaghetti.
  13. Salsa.  I know this seems like a weird one, but salsa {look for ones with minimal ingredients} added to eggs, chicken, enchiladas, etc. adds valuable vitamins and minerals {not to mention taste} without the cost of individually buying tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, etc.
  14. Avocado.  I know what you are thinking:  those are expensive!  Hear me out, though.  Avocados are calorically and nutritionally dense, which means a slice goes a long way.  Add one slice to a salad, top off your eggs, etc. and your meal will stick with you much, much longer.  They are one of those healthy fats that help with satiety.  For $1.00 a family of 4 could easily get a slice for 2 meals.

Everyone wants to give their family the best possible nutrition they can afford {or at least, I assume they do}.  Keeping those wishes in line with the budget is the tricky part.  Being smart about food choices will help…so will learning to prepare some of the above listed items {when in doubt, YouTube it}.

Did I forget any other budget friendly options?  Make sure to list them in the comments if I did!

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Penny Pinching Tip – Keep Your Heating Vents Open

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Keep Your Heating Vents Open

We have a gas furnace at our new house and the gas bill is running us just under $300 a month right now. And we have the thermostat at 65 degrees!!!

It’s nuts! So in an effort to reduce our bill a teeny bit, I decided to close the heating vents in the rooms we don’t use everyday {the craft room and our daughters room}. And then I did a little research.

I.WAS.WRONG.

According to Spark Energy, “Closing registers to cut energy use actually caused homes to use more energy, as duct leaks from increased pressures in duct systems caused energy losses that outweighed energy savings from heating or cooling only a part of the homes.”

Not only does it not save money, it can end up costing you EXTRA money in repairs, because the systems these days are designed to disperse air flow without built up pressure–the added pressure can cause all sorts of duct work problems.  Energy Vanguard listed these potential damaging consequences to closing the vents:

  • Increased duct leakage
  • Lower air flow with PSC blowers
  • Increased energy use with ECM blowers
  • Comfort problems because of low air flow
  • Frozen air conditioner coil
  • Dead compressor
  • Cracked heat exchanger, with the potential for getting carbon monoxide in your home
  • Increased infiltration/exfiltration due to unbalanced leakage , as I described last week
  • Condensation and mold growth in winter due to lower surface temperatures in rooms with closed vents

Sheesh!  Who knew?!  Anyway, as a good samaritan, I thought I would pass the information along.

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Fresh Herbs to Dry Herbs Equivalent

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Fresh Herbs to Dry Herbs Equivalent

Unless you have an indoor herb garden, fresh herbs are crazy expensive in the dead of winter.  I usually can’t justify the cost, so this time of year, I like to swap out dry herbs in recipes that call for fresh.  Because dry herbs are usually quite a bit more potent {because all of the water has been sucked out of them}, you will want to adjust the amount of dried herbs you use.

Luckily, there is a pretty simple rule of thumb when substituting dried herbs for fresh.  When using dried herbs, use 1/3 the amount the recipe calls for.  So, 1 tbsp. of fresh basil would equal about 1 tsp. of dried basil.  If you are lucky enough to have access to inexpensive fresh herbs {or just like to spring for fresh}, you can always add them to recipes that call for dried…just do the exact opposite:  add three times the amount of fresh.

Isn’t math fun?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Penny Pinching Tip – Split Your Meal

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Penny Pinching Tip - Split Your Meal

We don’t eat out at restaurants very often, but when we do, I’m blown away by how large the portion sizes are. I typically find myself eating out while on vacation {for obvious reasons!}, so I’m lucky that The Girl is always with me because we love to share meals.

Sharing meals is perfect in so many ways, not the least of which is I actually end up eating the correct portion size. If you dine out and split a meal, you’ve automatically cut 50% off your bill. I might not be good at math, but that one wasn’t rocket science. If we both order water {which we both prefer with our meals over soda}, we can usually get out of a restaurant for the price of one diner.

Seems like a pretty darn simple way to save if you find yourself eating outside your own kitchen.

Do you think that’s crazy? Not really the sharing type? Or do you have a sharing buddy when you dine out, too?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

20 Tips for Frugal Living

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20 Tips for Frugal Living

I feel like I am always looking for new ways to save money.  For me, the more money I save, the more I have to travel and use to do things I really I want to do.  The key, I think to living frugally, is to not FEEL like you are living without.  Most of the time, saving money just requires a little extra time and diligence–not sacrifice, if that makes sense?  If you are looking to shave a little money off of your monthly expenditures, or even better, free money up to do rad things, here are some tips {hopefully there will be some you aren’t already using}:

  1. Have a budget and stick to it.  Make sure to integrate frivolous spending/fun money into your budget, or you will feel like you are suffering.  When the fun money is gone, the fun is over for the month.  Plain and simple.
  2. It’s the little steps that add up.  There isn’t one big money saving tip that will yield tons of savings.  Be diligent about all of the little savings…pennies will turn into dollars in the long run.
  3. Embrace the DIY mentality.  YouTube is there for a reason–you can pretty much learn to do anything there.  Fix your own stuff, bake your own bread, do your own nails, etc.
  4. Turn money saving methods into hobbies:  garden, ride your bike for pleasure and transportation, etc.
  5. Embrace the library and swapping with friends.  No need to buy a new video game, DVD, or book.  Swap with friends or reserve it at your local library.  It’s free, and although it isn’t instant gratification, in the long run, savings will seriously add up.
  6. Sell what you don’t need.  Sell unwanted clothes at consignment shops and books and DVD’s to used book/movie dealers.  Old electronics can usually be turned into cash too.  Get rid of the clutter and turn it into cash.  Have a garage sale for a one time purge and earn.
  7. Buy used.  You can find really high quality clothing at the right consignment stores, and if you have even the slightest bit of vision, you can turn old furniture into custom awesomeness.
  8. Pay yourself first.  I’m sure you have heard this, but really, set up auto withdraw for EACH of your savings categories {Christmas, travel, savings, retirement, etc.}.  That way, the money won’t even be a temptation for frivolous spending.
  9. Downsize.  You may be able to afford the monthly mortgage on a bigger house, but have you ever added up the maintenance costs.  The bigger the house, the more maintenance.  It’s simple math–when there is 2 bathrooms, instead of 4, there are less pipes to fix, etc.  Downsize and I guarantee you won’t spend as much time at Home Depot.
  10. Move to one car.  This is a big one and it isn’t for everyone, but the savings are exponential, if you a can take the plunge.  You will have one less car payment, less insurance costs, less maintenance costs, less gas costs.  It really is astounding how quickly this will lead to savings.  Plus, if you are walking and/or biking places as a result, you may be able to cancel that gym membership.
  11. Rent instead of own your home.  I know, this is blasphemy to some, but hear me out.  Renting means zero maintenance costs {usually}, it means no property taxes, and it means no loan interest.  Of course, you won’t own your home in the end–but since very few people are staying put long enough to pay off a 30 year mortgage and then live out their days, the cost of home ownership might not be worth it.
  12. Eat at home.  This is a biggie.  I know a lot of you already do this, but seriously, you can easily spend $100 for a family of 4 at a sit down restaurant.  That is insane, if you calculate how many meals you could actually make for $100.
  13. Bring your lunch to work.  It sucks not to go out with your co-workers at lunch time, but the savings are substantial.  I make the HH lunch everyday, and if I ever sat down to add up how much that has saved us over the years, I think the number would be jaw dropping.
  14. Minimalize your clothing.  Clothing is expensive.  Having tons of it or keeping up with every fashion trend gets really expensive.  Choose a classic style and have enough, no more, no less.
  15. Stay out of the stores.  This is a big one.  I think shopping only at Costco this year will actually keep me from making those impulse purchases.  Target is particularly bad for this one for me–those stupid markdown end caps will get ya.
  16. Eliminate cable.  With Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Netflix, there really are plenty of options that will cost you about $10 a month to watch t.v.  Most cable bills are at least $60.  That’s $50 a month in your pocket.  Not too shabby.
  17. Cancel your gym membership and hit Pinterest for great body weight workouts.
  18. Plan errands carefully.  Plan your route down to the very last turn, and you  can save tons on time and gas.
  19. Cut utilities.  Get a programmable thermostat and set the temps lower when you are not home.  Wash clothes in cold.  Use a single bulb lamp instead of turning on the overhead light with 4-5 bulbs.  Don’t heat/cool the rooms you are not using–close the door and the vents to those rooms.
  20. Have a meatless meal once or twice a week.  Meat is expensive.  Having a meatless meal even just 2 times per week, assuming $5.00 for the meat can easily shave $40.00 off of your monthly food budget.

I know there are literally hundreds of ways to save money, right down to the tiniest detail.  Do you live frugally?   What are YOUR favorite tips?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Penny Pinching Tip – Hang Your Jeans to Dry

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jeansI am equal parts passionate about saving money and saving the environment. I’m not always perfect when it comes to either, but when I find an idea that kills two bird with one stone, I’m all over that.

So let’s talk about your jeans. A study done by Levi Strauss on their 501 jeans revealed that manufacturing and ultimately washing a pair of their jeans produces 32 kg of CO2 during its lifetime {the equivalent of driving 78 miles in an average car}; consumes 3,000 liters of water {the equivalent of taking a 7- minute shower every day for almost two months}; and consumes 400 mega-joules of energy {enough to power a personal computer for 556 hours, or more than three months for six hours a day}. Wow. Just wow.

I already wash my jeans in cold water to save money and wash them as infrequently as possible, so now I’m going to jump on the “hang to dry” bandwagon {is that a bandwagong? If not, it totally should be!} in an effort to save a little more.

Do you dry your clothes on a line or in the dryer or a little of both?

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

12 Ways to Reduce Your Heating Bill

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12 Ways to Reduce Your Heating BillLast month when I opened my heating bills {gas and electric}, I seriously nearly had an aneurysm right in the middle of my kitchen.  $300 for gas and $100 for electric.  Let me tell you, Bob, ever since I’ve been on a mission to get those numbers down.  $400 a month seems outrageous.  I’ve done Shy of making everyone where their Snuggie and snow boots everywhere in the house, I’ve researched and made some tweaks to our basic habits.

Let’s just say that I spend my days circling around the mailbox in anticipation of those bills.  I really hope our my efforts have paid off…

  1. Drop the thermostat at night and throw an extra blanket on the bed.  Colder temperatures activate our brown fat anyway…you’re practically doing your body a favor {not to mention your pocketbook}.
  2. Wash clothes in cold.  Heating water is EXPENSIVE, and most clothes do not need to be sanitized.  Your clothes will last longer anyway.
  3. Make sure you aren’t heating the outdoors {my dad would be so proud that I just typed that}.  Make sure doors are sealed, check the space under doors leading to the outside, and caulk around outside windows.  There is no reason to pay for heat that you are literally throwing out the window.
  4. After you bake dinner, leave the oven cracked.  You paid for that 350 degrees, you might as well let it spill out and warm up the kitchen.
  5. In the late afternoon/early evening, begin dropping the heat.  Use a space heater for the area the family will spend the evening.
  6. Make sure to switch the direction you ceiling fans turn and turn them on.  A clockwise turn will push warm air back into circulation.  {Did you know that?!  I totally just learned it in my research.  Don’t ask me to explain the science behind it, though.}
  7. Change your furnace filter regularly.  Making sure your furnace is running at maximum efficiency is just a no-brainer.
  8. Make sure to religiously stick to the basics:  turn all lights off when not in the room, try to make do with daylight during the day, etc.
  9. Stick to 5 minute showers.  I know it feels awesome to stand under the hot water on a cold day, but again, heating water is expensive.  As the cherry on top, you’ll also save money on water.  {Meanwhile, I have a friend who purposely showers at her gym to save money on hot water.   I get it, but it makes me chuckle.}
  10. If you have an attic door in your house, staple some insulation to the inside of the door.  A lot of heat is lost to that opening–and unless you are looking to heat the rafters, it’s kind of a waste.
  11. Turn down the water heater temperature.  Instead of constantly having 140 degree water at your fingertips–try turning it down to 120 degrees.
  12. Invest in a programmable thermostat.  You really only need to heat the house to comfort when you are home.  If you leave during the day, you might as well drop that sucker way down, and in the interest of comfort, you can program it to begin getting warm again about an hour before you get home.  That way, it’s pretty painless.

I’ll keep you posted on how much of a difference these all made.  Meanwhile, make sure to share any tips and tricks that I have missed–I’m in crisis mode here!

~Mavis

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

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