Our Brave New World of Budgeting :: 5 Big Ways We Save Money

After I left my engineering job in 2009 to stay at home full time with my first born, our family income was reduced to nearly half of its previous state. Although we were prepared (on paper) for this change, it was still a shock to the system! There were more than a few meltdowns on my part due to the new, self-imposed, yet necessary state of frugality.

Nearly five years later, my husband and I are still going strong with our closely watched budget (we use YNAB). Now we have a brand new goal in mind… early retirement!!! This means that we’re going to have to pay even closer attention to where our money is going.

I know that the changes we’ve made aren’t for everyone, and my goals are not the same as yours. However, I think many people are looking for more ways to save money so hopefully I can inspire you to take a second look at some of the “set” expenses in your life as well.


Cable Bill Cut- Saves $890/yr

We canceled our cable in favor of a DIY solution!
We canceled our cable in favor of a DIY solution!

Two years ago my husband came home one day and said, “how would you feel if we didn’t have cable.”  I was totally shocked that HE said that. He’s a big football fan and change like that would mean the loss of many games. I grew up with barely any TV at all, (but that’s another story) so I wasn’t personally worried about this change for myself.

We installed an HD antenna in the attic to get local channels (ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and more) in high definition. The hubby built a thing he lovingly refers to as “the HTPC” (home theater personal computer) that allows us to record shows just like the DVR box from the cable company. We use Netflix for kids shows and movies. We have even found ways to watch those uber-important sporting events as well.

The Mom-Mobile Downgrade – Saves $1463/yr in gas costs

Before: Honda Pilot

My original mom-mobile
My original mom-mobile

After the birth of our first child we set out on a hunt for the perfect vehicle that could accommodate 2-3 kids, their stuff, our stuff, our 50 lb dog, and her stuff on any family adventure we could think of. Since we would “never be seen driving a minivan” we got an SUV. A 2007 Honda Pilot to be exact. It seemed to be a logical choice at the time. Here are the stats on how much that vehicle cost us in gas each year:

  • 2007 Honda Pilot EPA estimated gas mileage = 15 mpg city & 20 mpg hwy (We averaged 17.5 mpg)
  • We drive approx 12,000 miles per year
  • Gas prices are currently around $3.30/gal for reg unleaded in Jacksonville
  • Total Gas Cost/Yr = $3.30/gal  x  12,000 miles  / 17.5 MPG = $2263

After: Toyota Prius

My new mom-mobile!  It's a hybrid and doesn't use much gas. Plenty of room for all of us including the dog!
My new mom-mobile! It’s a hybrid and doesn’t use much gas. Plenty of room for all of us including the dog!

After a lot of discussion and research, my husband and I decided that we would look into buying a Toyota Prius. We read all of the reviews about them and researched what people could fit in these cars. After looking at a few cars and testing our car seats, we made our purchase and couldn’t be happier with the savings opportunities this car gives our family. Here’s the cost breakdown:

  • 2010 Toyota Prius EPA estimated gas mileage = 51 mpg city & 48 mpg hwy (Average 49.5 mpg)
  • Total Gas Cost/Yr = $3.30/gal  x  12,000 miles  / 49.5 MPG = $1463


Cell Phones Cheapified – Saves $856/yr

We pretty much got fed up with paying soooo much for fancy cell phones and fancy service with unlimited everything. I’d started feeling like we didn’t use them enough to justify this expense in our single income budget. So we made a switch to two “budget” cell service providers and haven’t looked back!  Here’s the breakdown of our phones and plans:

My Phone

My Republic Wireless phone
My Republic Wireless phone
  • Carrier: Republic Wireless
  • Phone: Moto X, $300
  • Service: Unlimited calls, texts, 3G web
  • Cost: $25 per month
  • Plus, if I don’t need the 3G service all the time I can turn it on and off 2x per month to save even more.

Hubby’s Phone

  • Carrier: Virgin Mobile
  • Phone: iPhone 4s
  • Service: 300 talk minutes, unlimited texts, unlimited 3G web
  • Cost: $35 per month


Mortgage Refinance – Saves $4080/yr

Even though our home was (and still is) underwater a year ago, we talked to our bank and found out that we qualified to refinance to a lower interest rate (about 1.75% lower). Hallelujah!!! If you haven’t looked into whether or not moving to a lower interest rate is possible for you, I highly recommend doing so.


New Grocery Goal – Save $3600/yr

The new grocery budget goal is going to require very careful planning.
The new grocery budget goal is going to require very careful planning.

Let’s call this sort of a New Year’s resolution. Last year we consistently spent at least $900/mo for groceries (including diapers, cleaning supplies, and other household items).

I’ve decided that this level of spending is too high for my family. So the new goal is $600/mo. It’s going to be hard and will require some very careful meal planning. I’m already counting down the days until I can see that the budget will allow for a box of wine. Yes… I said box. So please cheer me on!

Jacksonville frugalistas… what’s the craziest change you’ve made to save money for you family?

Megan Johns
Megan grew up in rural central Florida building forts and feeding cows with her 3 younger sisters. Her youth led Megan to believe in the amazing power of female ingenuity and to put a high value on positive and supportive interaction among ladies and girls. As a graduate of the University of Florida Mechanical Engineering program, Megan moved to Jacksonville to pursue a career with a bio-medical device company and to begin a wonderful life with her amazing husband Patrick. During her years working as an engineer, Megan developed an interest in photography. When she put her career on hold to take on the hardest job a person could love (Mommy to Evan 5 and Lilla 3), she discovered her love of "life" style photography as seen at Megan Johns Photography. Megan carries her camera everywhere and sometimes refers to it as her "third child!"


  1. I love this post! Thank you for being so forthcoming and sharing details, such as phone carriers. Luckily my phone is covered through work, but both plans you mentioned are cheaper than what my husband pays and neither of us really enjoy talking on the phone. He is a stay-at-home Dad and we’ve had to make lots of sacrifices, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’m definitely going to give YNAB a try! Thanks Megan!

  2. Awesome Stephanie! I’m glad you like this post, it represents years of tough decisions! Good luck finding the right ways for your family to save big too!

  3. I started shopping resale which is how I ended up “back to work” and owning my own business!!

    Next up, convincing my husband to ditch the cable. didn’t know you could get an HD antenna! thank you for the insight!!

    • Yep, you sure can! Good luck with your husband… I think mine was motivated because it meant he got to learn to build a computer!

  4. Thanks for sharing, Megan. We haven’t had a cable for almost five years now, and have no plans for changing that. We use straight talk unlimited for our phone plans, so it cut our phone bill almost in half.


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