Author Topic: Reader Case Study - Help A Newbie Trim Some Fat  (Read 7276 times)

MySweets

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Reader Case Study - Help A Newbie Trim Some Fat
« on: October 29, 2014, 10:43:58 PM »
Howdy! I'm a newbie here. I thought I was pretty frugal until I found MMM. I was starting to research more into simple living and minimalism and came across the blog. I read through all the blog posts from start to finish. Now I'm obsessed with the idea of early retirement and am slowly trying to convert my S.O. (significant other) to mustachianism. I've been trying to go through the forum threads for tips but there are so many posts! And every situation is different so I was hoping there are those of you out there who would be willing to look at mine. I just recently put together our expense report for YTD which was a bit eye-opening.

My age: 29
S.O.'s age: 31
No Kids (I want them eventually, just not right now)

Monthly Income: Total $7.3K
Mine: take home ~$5K (varies because I'm pretty much commission but this is the average)
SO: take home $2.3K

Monthly Expenses: Total $3.75K
Auto: gas $197
Auto: tolls $40
Auto: Insurance/maintenance/misc $116
Entertainment: Netflix/Video Games $40
Food: Alcohol $90
Food: Groceries $657
Food: Eating Out $373
Fitness: $91 (this is something I don't want to ask S.O. to cut back on - Supplements and Hockey fees)
Life Insurance: $40
Pet: Food/shots/Grooming $63
Rent: $1100
Electricity: $94
Internet: $78
Cell Phones: $55
Utilities: $82
Misc Home: $243 (this includes one time furniture purchases this year so should be more like $10/mo)
Gifts/hobby: $228 (doing away with this in the future but the gifting will probably be about $50/mo)
Clothing: $60
Tobacco (Me): $110

Liabilities: NO DEBT

Assets: Total $198.5K
My 401K - $67K
My Roth IRA - $21K
My HSA - $5K
My Vanguard - $43K
My Cash (E-Fund) - $14K
S.O. 401K - $32K
S.O. Roth IRA - $5.5K
S.O. HSA - $1K
S.O. Vanguard - $6K
S.O. Cash (E-Fund) - $4K

Changes implemented after Mustachian enlightenment:
-Put excess cash into Vanguard Accounts
-I limit eating out to 1 day a week for lunch (S.O. likes to splurge on his fast food & beer on the wkends still)
-I've stopped paying for my mom's car insurance
-I'm still trying to quit smoking and had success for 4 months with vaping this year but stress at work got me back smoking again

Questions:
1. We're probably going to spend $40K total this year. I want to cut this to $25K next year. Where would you chop?
2. Do you think we'll be able to retire by age 40?
3. Should I be contributing into a traditional IRA instead of a Roth? I gross $100K now with potential of up to $200K in 2015 (but I think that means I can't contribute to an IRA at all if I do make more, right?).
4. S.O. and I contribute equally to a joint account to cover joint expenses but we're not married so our assets are separate. I make significantly more than him though and I max out my HSA, IRA, and try to max out my 401K (hard to guess this right being on commission pay). He just opened up a Roth IRA this year and plans to keep maxing each year which I'm very proud of him for. Should I be convincing him to max out his HSA and 401K too (which would take up most of his income) and convince him to let me cover living costs with my income?
5. S.O. and I have been together for 11 years. I gross around $100K and he grosses $39K. Would it make financial sense to just get married already? I'm thinking I should go ahead and get over my commitment issues with marriage and take the plunge but hesitant still if it's only going to save me a thousand or two in taxes.

I think that's it. Any input would be appreciated!


surfhb

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help A Newbie Trim Some Fat
« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2014, 11:06:34 PM »
I'm sure others will leave more in depth comments but I have 2:

1.   roughly 15% of your income is going to food!

2.   From an ex smoker - if you continue to smoke you will die a slow and uncomfortable death.    Might as well forget about retirement.   

MySweets

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help A Newbie Trim Some Fat
« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2014, 11:20:54 PM »
I'm sure others will leave more in depth comments but I have 2:

1.   roughly 15% of your income is going to food!

2.   From an ex smoker - if you continue to smoke you will die a slow and uncomfortable death.    Might as well forget about retirement.

1. Yeah... That was super eye-opening when some months we were eating more than our rent. We're definitely working on cutting this.
2. The health factor on this one is definitely more important than the money. I read your comment to my boyfriend and he definitely agrees with you there.

MDM

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help A Newbie Trim Some Fat
« Reply #3 on: October 29, 2014, 11:50:34 PM »

Questions:
1. We're probably going to spend $40K total this year. I want to cut this to $25K next year. Where would you chop?
2. Do you think we'll be able to retire by age 40?
3. Should I be contributing into a traditional IRA instead of a Roth? I gross $100K now with potential of up to $200K in 2015 (but I think that means I can't contribute to an IRA at all if I do make more, right?).
4. S.O. and I contribute equally to a joint account to cover joint expenses but we're not married so our assets are separate. I make significantly more than him though and I max out my HSA, IRA, and try to max out my 401K (hard to guess this right being on commission pay). He just opened up a Roth IRA this year and plans to keep maxing each year which I'm very proud of him for. Should I be convincing him to max out his HSA and 401K too (which would take up most of his income) and convince him to let me cover living costs with my income?
5. S.O. and I have been together for 11 years. I gross around $100K and he grosses $39K. Would it make financial sense to just get married already? I'm thinking I should go ahead and get over my commitment issues with marriage and take the plunge but hesitant still if it's only going to save me a thousand or two in taxes.

I think that's it. Any input would be appreciated!

MySweets, welcome to the forums.

Good work analyzing your income and expenses.  Understanding your situation is the first step toward improving things.

To your questions:
1.  Smoking and eating out are two "sore thumbs".  Given your current (and potential) income, you have some room to "waste".  After the smoking and dining, you could work on maximizing your tax-advantaged investments next, and only then work on more cost cutting.
2.  If your income does increase to $200K/yr, and stays there, and you are able to hold spending low and invest the extra income, and the market is no worse than average - yes, easily!
3.  Yes, traditional if you can, or Roth if you are above the AGI limit for traditional but below for Roth, or backdoor Roth if above the Roth AGI limit.  Or, if you can contribute after tax money to your 401k, see http://www.forbes.com/sites/ashleaebeling/2014/10/15/aftertax-401k-rollovers-advanced-version/.  If it works, that could be a good deal for you.
4 & 5 are intertwined.  The financial answers are easy (and by your post you know the right answers) if you are married.  But only you can answer the marriage question, and that answer should be based on love and commitment and long term compatibility (including financial philosophy) - the financial mechanics should be effects, not causes.

Good luck!

surfhb

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help A Newbie Trim Some Fat
« Reply #4 on: October 29, 2014, 11:55:40 PM »
I'm sure others will leave more in depth comments but I have 2:

1.   roughly 15% of your income is going to food!

2.   From an ex smoker - if you continue to smoke you will die a slow and uncomfortable death.    Might as well forget about retirement.

1. Yeah... That was super eye-opening when some months we were eating more than our rent. We're definitely working on cutting this.
2. The health factor on this one is definitely more important than the money. I read your comment to my boyfriend and he definitely agrees with you there.

Yep!    You guys are actually do pretty well if you can get the food down to $400 a month.    I mean even with your high food spending with your salary you're doing pretty well. 

You should be posting on an anti-smoking site because that's you're only real problem right now.      At this rate you will easily be retired in 10-15 years but who cares if you're dead :)

« Last Edit: October 30, 2014, 12:06:02 AM by surfhb »

Thegoblinchief

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help A Newbie Trim Some Fat
« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2014, 06:53:37 AM »
Your goal food budget should be $300 for groceries and $100 for dining out. I feed a very active family of 5 on $500, with another $100 admittedly wastefully going to alcohol, coffee, and tea. We almost never eat out, but when we do we keep it under $50 for the month.

Obviously quit the smoking however you can. Vaping, medication, whatever. Not only is it expensive, it's fucking awful for your long term health. This should be priority #1.

$60/month for clothes also seems a bit high. Even when I've bough nice outdoor gear (mostly one time purchases) we've never spent that much. Thrift shops and buy-it-for-life quality threads are your friend. If you don't already line dry, try it out. Clothes last 2x as long that way.

FarmerPete

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help A Newbie Trim Some Fat
« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2014, 07:07:32 AM »
Internet: $78

I pay $40 for a 25mb cable internet line from Comcast.  That even includes their "Streampix" online streaming, HBO & HBO Go.  I bought my own modem for $60 new instead of renting their modem for $7 a month.

Philociraptor

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help A Newbie Trim Some Fat
« Reply #7 on: October 30, 2014, 07:28:37 AM »
I'll parrot what others are saying: get the groceries down a bit, get the eating out down a lot, kill the tobacco habit.

What life insurance costs $40 and who are you insuring? If you don't have any debts life insurance probably isn't needed.  We pay $12/mo each for $200k coverage, 10 year term.

so.mpls

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help A Newbie Trim Some Fat
« Reply #8 on: October 30, 2014, 08:33:10 AM »
Agree with others posters here. 

How far is your commute?  Is it possible for you and/or your S.O. to bike or take public transportation to work?  Or for smaller errands?  $350/month isn't a terribly high amount to spend on vehicles, but there's definitely some room for improvement.  Plus, driving less = less depreciation which isn't factored in here.

Overall, you're doing pretty well.  A few tweaks and you'll be killing it :)

RunHappy

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help A Newbie Trim Some Fat
« Reply #9 on: October 30, 2014, 08:54:44 AM »
I agree with the other posters here food/alcohol/tobacco are your biggest expense. Trim those down. One thing you will find on here is no excuses are allowed. Don't blame starting smoking again on your job stress.  Unless you're dead, stress happens.

Auto: tolls $40
Are there alternate routes to avoid tolls?  I live in a high toll area and there are roads parallel to the toll road I can take for free.  It adds a little bit of time (5-10 minutes maybe), but saves toll money.


Pet: Food/shots/Grooming $63
I have a pet so I understand Food and Shots, but grooming?  Can you learn to groom your pet yourself and save some money?

Overall I think you are doing well .

MySweets

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help A Newbie Trim Some Fat
« Reply #10 on: October 30, 2014, 09:09:55 AM »
MDM - Thanks for the link! It'll give me something to read up tonight. I never really bothered to pay attention to AGI limits but its something I think I should know.

surfhb - Thanks! Anxiety and mental blocks pop up when I think about quitting smoking but I'm going to try again with new vigor. My boyfriend says my HSA is pretty much going to go to Emphazema if I don't change.

Thegoblinchief - I thought about the line drying when I read that blog post on it. But we only do laundry once a week and it would be a lot to line dry in our tiny apartment. I didn't think the savings would be that big but this will be something I'll bring up to my boyfriend to experiment with in November tonight. Thank you!

FarmerPete - I actually just switched this from TWC to Verizon. We do 25MB and the bill should be $60 but it's too new to actually see that bill yet. We use internet so much and my boyfriend works from home one day a week so $60 doesn't seem so bad.

Philociraptor - I am actually interested in more advise on this one. The $40 life insurance is just for me. It's a $100K variable universal life that my dad bought for me when I was 13. The monthly premiums are about $17-$18 per month but I just put in $400/year because they charge a $3 fee for each deposit. Cash value is $9K. I'm considering letting it just run through the premium or maybe cashing it out but I'm not sure. Any advice on this one?

HairyUpperLip

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help A Newbie Trim Some Fat
« Reply #11 on: October 30, 2014, 09:19:55 AM »
I'm sure others will leave more in depth comments but I have 2:

1.   roughly 15% of your income is going to food!

2.   From an ex smoker - if you continue to smoke you will die a slow and uncomfortable death.    Might as well forget about retirement.

1. Yeah... That was super eye-opening when some months we were eating more than our rent. We're definitely working on cutting this.
2. The health factor on this one is definitely more important than the money. I read your comment to my boyfriend and he definitely agrees with you there.

Yep!    You guys are actually do pretty well if you can get the food down to $400 a month.    I mean even with your high food spending with your salary you're doing pretty well. 

You should be posting on an anti-smoking site because that's you're only real problem right now.      At this rate you will easily be retired in 10-15 years but who cares if you're dead :)

I'm with this guy. Seems like smoking is your biggest downfall honestly.

The food thing, hopefully you guys are eating healthy food and I'd reduce the eating out either way. You should be able to easily get groceries to $500 or less a month. I know the forum shoots for better, but just set smaller goals if it helps.

And if you gotta smoke, poke smot at least. :-p

GetItRight

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help A Newbie Trim Some Fat
« Reply #12 on: October 30, 2014, 09:51:52 AM »
Tobacco (Me): $110

-I'm still trying to quit smoking and had success for 4 months with vaping this year but stress at work got me back smoking again

I switched to vaping years ago. If you're using little cigarette sized electronics that is the problem. Get a full size mod and a tank/carto setup, also find juice you like and don't try to get the same flavor as whatever you smoke. After a while cigs taste terrible (though oddly still smell good). My cost is under $1/day to vape. Think of all the money you're not giving to government to do evil, and think of all the medical bills you'll be avoiding from not getting cancer/emphysema/etc.

I'll chime in on the rest since I'm replying... You have no debt and have savings and investments... You're doing well! But... $650 on food for two then $400 eating out on top of that and another $100 for booze? So $1150+/mo on food and drink for two? Plug that leak! I thought I had a bad month at half that for for two, and that's with fast food/craft beer/restaurants. Avoid alcohol when going out, 1 drink at a restaurant is 3-6 drinks at home. When we go out to eat I choose highest sustenance to dollar ratio items and gorge on bread or freebies to stock up, can last me over 24 hours before I eat again for relatively little cost.

Pets are a luxury, I don't like them because they cost money and put many restrictions on your life. It's a luxury you can afford though. Gifts too, clothes can be done cheaper... These are little costs that IMO are trivial if you get that food spending under control.

2ndTimer

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help A Newbie Trim Some Fat
« Reply #13 on: October 30, 2014, 09:55:16 AM »
Other folks have done a good job of pointing out where the problems are so I will just add a couple of suggestions regarding food.

1.  Check your sourcing for groceries.  If you have either a Grocery Outlet or an Aldi's in your area explore it.  Also look around for salvage stores. 

2.  Learn to cook a few of the things that you regularly go out for.  If you have it regularly at home you will crave going out for it less.  Pizza was my impulse buy downfall.  Now when I crave it, I take a homemade crust out of the freezer, slather on a some sauce, I bought a bunch in squeeze bottles at Grocery Outlet and add some cheese and toppings.  When I run out of sauce, I will buy one of those giant cans from the local restaurant supply store and freeze it in two cup portions which I will use to refill my last squeeze bottle indefinitely.  My first pizza crusts were a bit peculiar and it took some experimenting to find the best sauce but I have mastered it now and I can look forward to a lifetime of not dropping $20/week on pizza.   

Philociraptor

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help A Newbie Trim Some Fat
« Reply #14 on: October 30, 2014, 10:06:25 AM »
Philociraptor - I am actually interested in more advise on this one. The $40 life insurance is just for me. It's a $100K variable universal life that my dad bought for me when I was 13. The monthly premiums are about $17-$18 per month but I just put in $400/year because they charge a $3 fee for each deposit. Cash value is $9K. I'm considering letting it just run through the premium or maybe cashing it out but I'm not sure. Any advice on this one?

So if you're paying the premium who will benefit if you pass? Do they need $100k to bury you? Do they need to replace your income for a time if something happens?

The whole point of life insurance is to help fund funeral expenses and replace lost income in the event that your death would cause financial hardship. That's it. Forget cash value, forget calling it an "investment". Anything other than term life for the above purpose is inappropriate for 98% of people, yourself included. If you have no debt and a bit of savings that could cover your funeral, you don't need the policy. I'd say cash it out and be done with it.

Hannah

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help A Newbie Trim Some Fat
« Reply #15 on: October 30, 2014, 10:40:45 AM »
The big three are always housing, transport, and food.

Housing: I assume is under control (depending on where you live $1100 might be high or low, but it seems average for a mid-size city).
Transport: Two cars or one? Many couples who live in a city can get by with just one car, and that means both a bit of monthly savings, as well as a big influx of cash which can be invested.
Food: Listen to other posters here.

I do wonder about your health though. In addition to smoking, $90 on booze could be a lot for just 2 (and excluding restaurants), and restaurant eating can't be too healthy. Since you are straight commission, work must be seriously stressful, so I cannot recommend highly enough finding life giving options instead of life sucking options. You know better than anyone what these can be. I like to recommend bike commuting since its a daily habit, but others will recommend other things.


mozar

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help A Newbie Trim Some Fat
« Reply #16 on: October 30, 2014, 08:31:39 PM »
If you got your expenses down you could retire a lot sooner than 40.

MySweets

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help A Newbie Trim Some Fat
« Reply #17 on: October 31, 2014, 07:00:24 PM »
so.mpls - We live half way between my work and his. 18 miles for him and 19 miles for me. I have a 2009 Honda Fit and he has a 2009 Honda Civic. We're pretty much going to have those cars until they disintegrate. Other than hockey for him on Sunday nights, I think we're going to try to combine our grocery shopping/errands for Saturday mornings.

RunHappy - I printed out all of the responses to go over with my S.O. over dinner yesterday. He's quoted your "unless you're dead, stress happens" three times now. :) Tolls - I remapped my route to work. It'll add a few minutes but it'll take my tolls down to 50 cents a day. Thank you! Pet - You are right. I used to groom her myself a couple of years ago. I think I'll go back to doing that.

HairyUpperLip - that might up the food bill, lol. Kidding!

GetItRight - My S.O. got a laugh of the idea of gorging on bread. He says he had a mental image of eating fistfuls of breadsticks and just ordering a water. The e-cigs didn't work for me either but I am going back to my cheap e-go twist/protank set up. I still have enough juice to last me over a month right now.

2ndTimer - Aldi is actually our first stop, then we hit up a local asian grocery store, then Walmart for everything else. I have a seafood habit. I like seafood A LOT. I think I'm just going to have to find a way to sprinkle it out over multiple meals.

Philociraptor - I had an hour long argument with my sister over this last night. I wanted to cash it out and give the money to my dad since he paid most of the premiums while I was younger. My sister, being a life insurance salesman, convinced me to just keep it and not pay any more into it with the argument that it's not mine, it's my parents' who purchased it and their decision to do so with their money so cashing it out and giving it back to them is like a slap in the face.

Hannah - $90 is just my S.O. and it's drinking at home. I don't drink. But saying that $90 was a lot for two made him pause a bit.

mozar - I hope so.


------------------------
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So I had an over dinner meeting with my S.O. We are going to implement the following changes:

1. Line drying our clothes. I re-read the blog post on that. We only do 1-2 loads of laundry a week so at 50 cents a load, it didn't seem like a big deal but my S.O. says it's more about the mentality and to consider it more of a lifestyle change/challenge.

2. S.O. is going to start maxing out his HSA/401K/IRA and I'm going to cover our household expenses minus his booze (just because this isn't something I want to pay for). He was skeptical at first on whether he could afford to do this but I wrote the numbers out for him and left it on the coffee table for him to look at all day. He's all on board now since when you break down the figures, he still stays the same as far as his personal money.

3. Get the food down. I found another buddy at work who is on the Dave Ramsey program right now. We eat our packed –lunches together and discuss budget things on our walks. She’s called me out on a few things and vice-versa. This has been nice and has helped.  As for groceries, S.O. said the hours I spent putting together the YTD expense report was worth it because just having the numbers down on paper like that was like a punch in the face. So I think this will lead to more conscious purchases now.

4. Smoking – the big one! I knew I was going to get hit hard on this. Thanks to everyone’s comments and reading them over with him, my S.O. now can be more vocal about his hatred for my smoking whereas before, he didn’t really feel like he could say anything. The smoking will stop.

… and a whole bunch of other little changes. I wanted to thank everyone for their comments and insights. I’ve been trying for years to get my S.O. to be more involved with our finances. Before it was very much him just letting me handle things. But thanks to Mr. Money Mustache and your posts, we’ve had some very nice and in-depth discussions about it. I think the expense report and the airing of it out there to be prodded at was the best decision ever. We’ll become a decently Mustachian couple one step at a time.

I’ll update a progress report in a couple of month. Thank you again!

Spondulix

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help A Newbie Trim Some Fat
« Reply #18 on: October 31, 2014, 08:07:02 PM »
Do you have a Costco or Sams Club near by? If you're going to buy booze, that is a great way to cut down costs.

There was a lot of mention of cutting down food costs, but I think it's also important to determine WHY you spend so much on food. (I'm just digging into this myself). If it's a time/convenience thing, it might be worth buying semi-prepared foods (marinated meat, chopped vegetables, etc) - not the ideal solution, but a good stepping stone to getting out of the eating-out cycle. If you just like getting out of the house, try coming up with ideas where you can pack your own dinner, just go for an appetizer, buy a last minute Groupon deal, etc.

pistachio

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help A Newbie Trim Some Fat
« Reply #19 on: November 16, 2014, 08:42:00 PM »
2.  Learn to cook a few of the things that you regularly go out for.  If you have it regularly at home you will crave going out for it less.  Pizza was my impulse buy downfall.  Now when I crave it, I take a homemade crust out of the freezer, slather on a some sauce, I bought a bunch in squeeze bottles at Grocery Outlet and add some cheese and toppings.  When I run out of sauce, I will buy one of those giant cans from the local restaurant supply store and freeze it in two cup portions which I will use to refill my last squeeze bottle indefinitely.  My first pizza crusts were a bit peculiar and it took some experimenting to find the best sauce but I have mastered it now and I can look forward to a lifetime of not dropping $20/week on pizza.

What recipe do you use for pizza crusts?

Kyle Schuant

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help A Newbie Trim Some Fat
« Reply #20 on: November 16, 2014, 09:33:16 PM »
Auto: gas $197
Auto: tolls $40
Auto: Insurance/maintenance/misc $116
Depending on your workplace locations, it may be possible to cut this. Possible solutions:
1. move close to one of your workplaces, within walking/cycling distance
2. arrange work hours so you can carpool with each-other, this may mean one of you takes the bus home, that's okay
3. at least one of you change jobs, and/or change to doing more work from home

Quote
Entertainment: Netflix/Video Games $40
1. for the honest: library
2. for the dishonest: thepiratebay

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Food: Alcohol $90
Food: Groceries $657
Food: Eating Out $373
This is an easy area to cut in. Buy a recipe book, buy food in bulk, start cooking, make extra at dinner and take it for lunch. It's reasonable to halve these, which is $500pm or $6,000pa.

Quote
Life Insurance: $40
Tobacco (Me): $110
Stop smoking and maybe you won't need the health insurance. I've been a smoker, don't give me the "I'm trying" nonsense - just bin them all now (preferably in the toilet so you're not tempted to fish them out of the bin) and stop. You stop when you decide to.

Quote
Electricity: $94
There are myriad ways to cut electricity use, just search here.

Quote
Internet: $78
Cell Phones: $55
You will usually find services offer bundles of internet and phone which are cheaper than they are individually. If you work in an office at all, lots of the stuff can be done at work. Do you need internet at home?

MacGyverIt

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Re: Reader Case Study - Help A Newbie Trim Some Fat
« Reply #21 on: November 16, 2014, 10:09:22 PM »
FarmerPete - I actually just switched this from TWC to Verizon. We do 25MB and the bill should be $60 but it's too new to actually see that bill yet. We use internet so much and my boyfriend works from home one day a week so $60 doesn't seem so bad.

Can your boyfriend as his work to help cover the Internet costs for 4-5 days a week of business use?

If not, there's got to be a tax deduction in there for accounting for that usage time, yes?