Mom’s Tortilla Soup

It’s recipe day! As per usual, it’s less that I think you care about my recipe than the fact that I suck at keeping track of recipes so if I really like something that isn’t pin-able it’s easiest for me to keep it on my own blog. But hey– if you want to give it a try (and you really should) and happen to like it? All the better!

This is my mom’s recipe and I don’t know where she got it. I think it was one of those things she just made one day when throwing things together and it turned out so good it made it into the rotation. I recommend making it for a group because it makes a LOT. We’ve eaten 5 bowls between the two of us and I think I’m going to freeze the rest for another dinner (or two) because you can only eat so much soup in a week.

soup

 

Ingredients:

1lb chicken cooked and shredded or cubed

2 peppers (any color– I used red and yellow)

1 large onion

1 jalapeno, seeded (optional, I didn’t use it)

1 cup combined chopped carrots and celery (optional, I didn’t use)

1 can black beans, rinsed

1 cup corn

1 can diced fire roasted tomatoes

2 chopped adobo peppers (from a can)

6 cups chicken broth (1.5 boxes)

1 tspn. taco seasoning, chili powder, garlic powder

Garnishes: fresh cilantro, fresh lime, cheese, tortilla chips

 

Instructions:

Sprinkle raw chicken with chili powder and garlic powder (also cumin if you want) and cook however you want. I cooked in a pan with a little olive oil. Remove chicken and chop. Saute peppers and onion in some olive oil in the bottom of a soup pot. Once they’re translucent/soft, add all the other ingredients except garnishes. Simmer for 30-60 minutes. Serve and garnish with shredded cheese, a squeezed wedge of lime, fresh cilantro, and crushed tortilla chips. Yum!

 

In which you wonder why I ask for advice at all if I’m not going to take it…

So last time we spoke I asked for some opinions on flooring options. I also asked some friends of mine. In total I got six opinions. Five of them were that we should do the wood floors throughout the main level and wait on carpet for the man cave. So what are we doing?

Not putting carpet throughout the main level.

I know. Why did I ask?

The funny thing is, I REALLY did not know what I wanted when I wrote the post. But as the votes came tumbling in, and all (mostly) in favor of doing the wood through the great room… I found myself going “but.. but… but…” Doing the wood floors throughout makes perfect sense. It looks pretty. It helps resale. It would get the whole main level done now and we could afford it.

So why am I resistant?

I just don’t want to. Which I didn’t know until people told me I should. I think the basic reason I don’t want wood floors in the great room is that I just think carpet is cozier. I think it is nicer to walk across and to lay on (weirdly– we actually lay on the floor in that room with some regularity when we’re playing with stew). It won’t require me to buy a big throw rug, which while gorgeous is more money and another big decision to make. And it’s easier to maintain. Vacuum and done. Wood floors are gorgeous but there is a lot more sweeping and cleaning involved (especially with pets).

So, even though wood floors would maybe look a little better and would be a bonus on resale— we’re not flipping this house. We’re probably not selling it for ten(+) years. So if carpet is what I really want? Carpet is what we’re getting. (It is worth noting– B is fully on board with the carpet in that room).

Which leaves two options: Carpet now or carpet later?

And I’ve waffled. A lot. I was certain waiting to do the carpet was the right call. Then I was certain doing it right now was the smarter choice. Rinse and repeat, about 10 times in the 48 hours.

I’m supposed to call with my final decision in the morning, and to be honest I’m still only 95% sure. So we’ll see if there is a morning post with a recant of everything about to say. But the decision is…. (drumroll)… carpet later.

Doing the carpet now is so tempting because it would be nice to just have the first two levels done. And if we’re going to just go ahead and do carpet in 8-12 months anyways, why wait? Two reasons, mostly.

#1: Money

Technically, we can afford to do it all now. But we would have to stop contributing to our emergency savings fund for a while to do it. And/or be pretty frugal the whole rest of this year in terms of house projects. As in…. basically do nothing else. I have a death grip on our emergency savings fund because it is really really important to me to make sure that we’re financially secure even if one of us loses our job. We have an okay amount in there now, but we’re not to my “happy number” yet, so I really am just not okay with our savings plan taking a hit for the sake of carpet.

#2: Projects

In thinking about it, there are some projects I would sort of like to do BEFORE we get new carpeting. Not only the random ones that we would have to forego if we did the carpet now, but actual (somewhat) carpet-dependent ones. First on that list would be repainting the man cave. I’ve been trying to convince B to do it for a while now and he’s not yet agreed… but I can tell I’m wearing him down. We certainly COULD do it if we got new carpet, but it would be a lot less nerve-wracking to do it before our brand new carpet was installed. Also, I’d really  love to do a new tile surround for our fireplace. Our current one? Fug. (From Christmas 2011, but you get the idea).

111207_Maddie_3_months2-31

 

It will only cost a couple hundred (at most) to buy the tile for this project, but my dad had mentioned it would be best to do it right before we replace the carpeting in there because we may damage it in the process. We really don’t have the time, money, or inclination to get it done in the next 2 weeks before new carpet would be installed but we could definitely get it done if we waited a bit on the carpet.

Bonus reason #3: I can always change my mind

There is no discount associated with getting the carpet and hardwood done at the same time. Two different installers do it. And if I change my mind next week, or next month, or in six months… I can call and order the carpet then. Sure, there is a risk that if we wait we won’t be able to get the same sort of discounts. But if they gave us this price once they’ll probably do it again so I don’t think it’s a big factor.

So… in the most long-winded multi-posted way possible… that’s what we’re doing with the floors. I think. I hope. (No promises.)

Flooring decisions…

When B and I bought this house, the ONE thing I really disliked about it was the vinyl flooring. Because we bought this house as a spec house (i.e. a house that a builder builds without a seller in mind), everything was new but had already been chosen for us. It was a big compromise for me, and we vowed to do wood flooring within 3 years.

But then, as it does, life happens. We’ve had some expensive years and haven’t been able to do as much to the house as I would’ve liked (see: such projects as new fence, new patio, wood floors, professional landscaping… ). Pretty much the only real upgrade we’ve made is painting. But the floors… they irk me daily. Yay…. builder grade vinyl….

kitchennow

And the world’s cheapest carpet….

IMG_6950

A month ago I told B I wanted to get some quotes for flooring… “just for research.” Because, ya know… “I want to know what we’re saving towards. It matters if it’s going to be $5,000 or $15,000 right? We should know what our goal is!”

And I did actually believe that. But let’s face it, once you start shopping it is really hard to wait. And then we got a pretty decent tax return. The wheels started turning. So, we set a budget and started looking in earnest (which was annoying for a variety of reasons I won’t get into). And we finnnnalllyyyyyy make a decision. Behold– our new wood floors (sample):

hickory floors

Love! I know the handscraped/distressed thing is sort of a fad right now, but 1) so pretty!!! 2) it will hide wear and tear much better and 3) its most of what is currently available– particularly if you’re set on hickory like us.

And to replace our already-worn-down-after-just-3-years carpet?

carpet

It may not look that exciting (its carpet, after all), but it is plushy and cushy and multi-colored awesomeness that looks about 10x better than our current bottom-of-the-line stuff.

So… the plan was to replace the current vinyl (which spreads through the entrance hall, kitchen, breakfast area, and half bath) and the carpet in the dining room (which is right next to the front door) with wood and to replace the great room and man cave carpet with newer better carpet.

The quote came in and? Over budget. Why are things in life so expensive? I did a bit of haggling and got the quote down to just about $250 over our previously-set max price. Which is pretty damn close. But our max budget was max for a reason… and we really didn’t want to go over that set amount. Which leaves us with three options.

Option 1: Stay the course, find the cash

Continue on with the plan and get new flooring throughout the whole first two levels of our home.

Pros: Takes care of these first two levels (and the only levels that guests generally see) with new and pretty flooring. We won’t have to deal with upgrading any more flooring for at least a couple years (until I get sick of the crappy carpeting in the rest of the house and want it replaced, but it gets less wear so we still have a little bit). It’s only $250 more than we hoped.

Cons: Stretches our budget to the max and means we won’t have much (any?) room for other projects this year. Not sure how I feel about carpet in the living room (see below).

Option 2: Split it up

Do the wood now, as planned. Save the carpeting of the great room and man cave for next year.

Pros: The carpeting isn’t really THAT bad (more of a personal peeve than obvious to guests), so it could probably wait. Cost of just the wood flooring is really reasonable and will give us lots of breathing room in our budget.

Cons: Kind of a hassle to do the flooring deal twice in two years, and its not like the cost of carpet is going down. Not sure how I feel about carpet in the living room (see below).

Option 3: Split it up, remix.

I’m toying with the idea of continuing the wood through the great room, which would make the entire main level wood. If we did this we would wait until next year to do new carpet in the man cave.

Pros: I love the look of an entire level in wood. It would probably improve the resale value of the house. It would still come in under budget and give us a bit of breathing room. (although not as much as option 2).

Cons: We’re spending more money over all. It will take 2 years to get everything done.

Sigh. First world problems, right? I think the deciding factor is whether or not we want to do the great room in wood. While I do love the look, for practicality’s sake I lean towards carpet. Carpet is cozier for a living space, it doesn’t require an extra rug, it’s easier to maintain, and given the layout of our house I don’t think that carpeting in the great room is necessarily a strike against us for resale. But… it’s pretty! So yea, torn.

I’m open to opinions here people. Let me have ’em!

Either Sean or Elaine values me as a customer. Or maybe it was just an ape…

Sigh. Remember last week when I was SO EXCITED about all the money we’d be saving through a few minor changes, such as switching cable? We were moving our bill from $115 per month to $71 per month by switching to ATT Uverse, and I was pumped. I should have known better.

The thing is– I hate salesman. A lot. It is my firmly held belief that although there are SOME good ones, the industry as a whole is built on an “us vs. them” (salesmen vs. consumer) mentality that encourages misinformation and sometimes outright deceit. To combat this, I’ve grown very weary of having to deal with salesman, and I am always extremely careful to ask a LOT of very specific questions.

When signing up for cable I called in to speak to a real person rather than signing up online so that I could ask those questions. They included details about the channels we would be getting, internet speed, the details of the $100 visa card we’d be getting, and I specifically asked the salesman if there was an upcharge for HD service. I was told no, it was included in the package I had selected and my total was $71/month. I asked him if that 71/month also included all the various taxes, fees, random unexplainable charges that always seem to pop up on cable bills— I explained I wanted to know my actual, final, out-the-door cost. He said yes. $71 was the FINAL cost. Honestly, I didn’t really believe him about that, but the taxes/fees/etc I was paying with the last cable company were under $5 so I mentally figured it might cost us more like $75 rather than $71 and moved on. The next day I called back to actually book my service (the first day was a price scouting mission because I was comparison shopping). I went through the whole deal again with saleslady #2. She confirmed $71 was the final cost for everything I wanted– Uverse 200 + Internet Elite and it included HD service and it even included HBO and Cinemax for free!! (for 3 months and then I have to cancel it or they’ll charge me without warning me and we don’t watch HBO anyways… but whatever. Calendar marked to cancel).

So the installation guy comes out to install it yesterday– and I should note, I find that techs and installation people are generally always very nice and this man was no exception— he took one look at my 60″ tv and said “Um… you know that you didn’t order HD service right?” I told him no, I confirmed with two people that I DID. He said “Oh, yea… they lied. I can hook you up for that, but it’s an extra $10 per month.” I’m betting they do this a lot– and most people just pay it because once you’ve already waited a week for installation and canceled your other cable, what else are you going to do? Unless you’re me, and then you’re going to have the installation guy help you call the direct customer service line to complain. To their credit, the woman I spoke to was quite nice (and didn’t sound at all surprised) and comped the HD service for the next 12 months, bringing my total back down to $71/month. If that was all that had happened, I’d probably not be writing this post.

Then late yesterday afternoon I got an email with my new customer survey, which included an estimated first bill. And what do I find? Over $15 in taxes and fees. What the what?!?

I didn’t want to call again because 1) I hate phone mazes and 2) I don’t really trust what people are telling me on the phone anymore, I prefer to make complaints via email.

So I wrote an email (which finding an email address for ATT is no easy task, let me tell you– if you need to reach them it is ATT_1MI@amcustomercare.att-mail.com). I didn’t even ask for my money back per month because I figured they probably won’t do that at this point. But I did let them know that having two salesmen in two days assure me that $71 was my final price for my package including HD service and finding out on install day that my actual costs (if I’d not complained about HD) would be $96/month was absolutely dishonest. And it was a pattern. It is clear that they train their salesman to lie to book customers on the “package price” without informing them of the upcharges. And I’d be warning people. Get Uverse if you want— but don’t believe the salesman. Be aware that there will probably be an extra $20-30/month of charges you’re not being told about, no matter how many times you confirm the price.

I just got an email back this morning. Let me show you….

Screen Shot 2013-04-09 at 9.02.15 AM

 

So let’s break this down. First of all… who the f is Dennis Desmond? At first I thought this must just be a form letter and they forgot to take the last guy’s name off of it (smooth move…) but then I noticed the typos. Like “genrated” and non-capitalization of the letters starting sentences. Which means it was actually typed by whoever sent the email (or their form letters are really just awful haha). Next… let’s talk about who sent this. Sean? Elaine? I have another suspicion…

monkey-on-computer[1]

Whoever it is, they are apparently going to “personally take care of” my concern after my first actual bill is generated. Let’s just say… I’m not getting my hopes up.

The bottom line is… if we’re paying $86/month for cable and internet– it isn’t a horrible price. It’s better than we were paying before (although if we had to pay the 10/month for HD service and actually got all 3 tvs hooked up to the cable like we had before it would be the same because Uverse charges per tv). It’s worth keeping for the next 12 months to us at this cost. But we do need to be sure that we switch services again before month 13 starts because all of their insane upcharging means that once our 12 month deal is gone, our bill will DOUBLE. And it also means that I want people to know what happened so they don’t make the mistake of trusting ATT. If you want to sign up for ATT because you like their service (not customer service— we know that’s questionable at best) better… go for it. But realize that you’re being lied to. That they are trained to lie to you. And that whatever price they give you will be less than you actually pay.

Be careful out there folks. (And I’ll update after I get my first bill to see if Sean or Elaine or Bobo actually fixes things or not…. I suspect not).

Liebster Blog Award post!

Heather over at Beyond the Aisle nominated me for this fun little award/game of blog-tag where small audience bloggers take turns asking and answering questions from other bloggers. Here’s how it works: This award is given to new or up and coming bloggers who have less than 200 followers.  The award is then passed along to other bloggers in the same category to help spread the word and support one another.

liebster_new

Rules:
1. Each blogger should post 11 random facts about themselves.
2. Answer the questions the tagger has set for you.
3. Create 11 new questions for the bloggers you pass the award to.
4. Choose 11 blogs (with less than 200 followers) to pass the award to and link them in your post.  Don’t forget to go back to their pages and tell them about the award.
5. No tag backs (but please leave me a comment on this post with the URL to your Liebster Award post so I can learn more about you!)

So, off we go!! I’ll try to make the things about me a mix of new and not-so-new info, just to catch new readers up to speed!

11 Random Things About Me

adorable milo

1. I’m married to B, who is awesome. We have a corgi (Stew) and two cats, Cali and Milo (pictured). I love my little family more than I ever thought was possible.

2. I decided to go to law school because from the time I was a kid, everyone told me I should be a lawyer. I liked to argue and always had a rationalization for everything– so I guess it seemed like a good fit. (It is not.)

3. I’m working on making my favorite hobby, photography, into my day job. I’ve been second-shooting weddings for about 1.5 years, and I have my first solo wedding later this month. I absolutely love photographing weddings and newborns. I kind of can’t believe people will pay me to do something that fun.

4. I’m a ridiculously picky eater. It is easier to tell you what I DO like than what I DON’T. If it wouldn’t make me broke and 400 lbs, I could survive entirely on Tim Hortons, Cane’s, Chipotle, and Pei Wei.

5. B and I have really horrible luck when it comes to vacations and natural disasters. We got hit with the 2011 tsunami on our honeymoon, and we’ve been waylaid by a hurricane trying to get home from Vegas,and a thunderstorm of biblical proportions trying to get home from North Carolina. It has kind of soured us for travel for the past year or two— which is actually sort of a good thing for our budget.

6. My five favorite movies, in no particular order, are: Clerks, Bad Boys II, Juno, Little Miss Sunshine, and Easy A.

7. B and I hope to model our future parenting after the parents in Easy A. We love them. A lot.

8. I’m sort of a failure at blogging. I like doing it, but I don’t spend a lot of time reading other blogs, or exploring new blogs, I don’t have many “blog friends,” and I don’t know a lot of the lingo. Example: I have no idea what a “tag-back” is (mentioned in the rules above?) lol

9.  I love the internet, and I’m so grateful for the relationships it has helped me cultivate. Even though I don’t have a lot of blog friends, I did meet B through match.com, I have maintained a long-distance friendship with my bff for the last 6 years by gchatting with her on an almost-daily basis, I met the two ladies that have helped me immeasurably with getting my photo biz started on a wedding website when they were planning their own weddings, and my favorite new friend (who lives only like 9 houses up the road from me) I honestly probably would have never met if we hadn’t met online randomly first and then realized she was building a house in our development.

10. I also sort of hate the internet. Or rather, my lack of self control with it. I am always connected– always. I work on my computer from 8-6 every day. And most nights after dinner I’m either surfing around while we watch tv or at least checking in on fb obsessively with my phone. Sometimes I find myself checking facebook while I brush my teeth. NOT EVEN KIDDING. Why? I have no idea. I keep toying with the idea of a black-out weekend. No computer. No internet on phone. Only talking to people either in real life or on the phone. It shouldn’t seem as hard as I think it would be…..

11. I don’t really buy that “money can’t buy happiness.” I mean sure– money ALONE doesn’t make you happy if your life sucks. But if you’re otherwise pretty happy– money can totally make you happier. Know what has made me really happy and cost money? Stewie. My cameras. My macbook pro. Our awesome TV. My wedding set (yes, the idea behind it. But also? so shiny!). My car. Know what would make me even happier? Wood floors. New carpeting. A patio. A fence. Not having to budget. A trip to Germany (exception to the “we don’t want to travel” feeling). Know what those things require? Money. Just saying…

Heather’s Questions for Me

  1. What blogs do you read on a regular basis? 

    My favorites are Young House Love and Love and Renovations. There are others in my reader, but those are the two that make me happiest when they post. I love love love home decor stuff, especially DIY and done on the cheap.

  2. What are you looking forward to doing this spring? 

    All my photography sessions coming up! I have two engagement shoots later this month that I think are going to be amazing. Plus a wedding at the end of the month. Plus a couple baby shoots. All this stuff on my calendar makes me so excited for the warm weather!

  3. If you could be talented at any sport or athletic activity, which one would you choose? 

    I think I’d really like to enjoy running. Not even be necessarily talented or awesome at it. Just relatively capable and to view it as stress-relieving rather than pure torture. It’s no secret that I suck at sticking to any sort of workout schedule and I think that if I could stick to running it would be the perfect exercise because it is free and can be done anywhere.

  4. What’s your favorite thing about your “day job”? 

    The flexibility. I don’t like what I do, but I do like that I get to do it at home and I don’t really have to stick to a strict schedule as long as I’m getting all my work done. It allows me time to work on other stuff during the day sometimes, or take photo sessions in the mornings when necessary.

  5. What are your favorite songs right now? 

    Oooo hard question. I love music but I’m not really a person who listens to new music or different stuff a lot. And I almost never know the names of whatever I’m listening to. B supplies me with what he knows I like and I listen to that for months on end lol. Looking at my “most played” list on my phone, I can see that some of my favorites right now are: Handlebars (Flobots), Amazing Ft. Young Jeezy (Kanye West), Imma Do It Ft. Kobe (Fabolous) and Hurt (Johnny Cash). Random….. lol

  6. What are your dating deal-breakers? 

    Well I’m not exactly dating lately… haha. But when I was I’d say one of my first questions would be if the guy likes pets. Allergies to or dislike for pets is an absolute deal breaker for me because I don’t think I could ever not have pets!

  7. What snack is your kryptonite? 

    My current favs are homemade popcorn and dark chocolate covered pretzels. But if we’re talking, what can I not even be trusted with? Doritos.

  8. What is your favorite item in your home? 

    Other than my husband and pets and computer and camera? Ummmmm maybe our bed. It’s super comfy.

  9. What trend or style from your childhood/teen years would you want to bring back? 

    I used to dye my hair crazy colors (pink and purple) and I miss that still. I actually saw some really pigmented hair chalk at Ulta the other day that showed up in my hair– and I am totally considering purchasing it. Even though I have no idea where I would wear it at this point in my life! If I actually am able to transition to photography full time I think it is entirely possible I’ll start dying my hair weird colors again.

  10. What fictional character (book, movie, or TV show) are you most like? 

    Wow, this is a hard one! I don’t feel like I usually identify that strongly with many female characters because they generally seem to fall into either the “super studious/ambitious” category or the “basket case” category, and I am neither. I guess maybe Olive from Easy A because I think (hope?) I have a similar sense of humor/sarcasm while being a generally nice person. Who sometimes does stupid things. (Although I’ve never fake prostituted myself… just to be clear).

  11. If you had to eat the same dinner every night, what would it be? 

    Chipotle. mmmmmm……

 

My Questions

1. Why did you start blogging?

2. What is the first concert you went to?

3. If you could have ONE super power (but not flying or invisibility– because those are way too easy), what would it be?

4. Coke or Pepsi? (Warning: Your answer here could affect our ability to be friends)

5. What is the best purchase you ever made?

6. What’s the dumbest thing you’ve ever done?

7. Who is your celebrity crush?

8. What artistic talent do you wish you had?

9. If you could choose to be really famous, would you be? (Like, Kardashian famous)

10. What is your biggest pet peeve?

11. What are your 5 favorite movies?

So here’s the hard part– I don’t know 11 bloggers! Let alone 11 with small readerships. Hm… I think I’m going to fail this section miserably. Looking at my reader only one blog fits the bill– one of my only blogger friends! Anna at Burger Breakup. I’ll also mention Amanda of SalTals, even though she has deactivated her blog– in the hopes that I can harass her into blogging again. Maybe?

Oh well. I met 4 of the 5 rules (I think? I still don’t know what a tag-back is haha). I’m declaring it good enough!

Spring cleaning… our budget.

Right around this time every year, B and I sit down and redo our budget. We are budget rockstars. Between my willingness to go through months of data to find our numbers and B’s love of spreadsheets– it is usually an all-afternoon affair that results in the kind of high-tech budget spreadsheet that Suze Orman would be proud of. Where we suck, however, is at actually STICKING to the budget. Admittedly– we were better about it when we used mint.com. The problem is that a few years back mint stopped playing nice with citibank which is where I do 90% of our spending. Which made it useless.

This is compounded by the fact that we’ve had a couple really expensive years in a row. In 2010 we moved into and furnished a new home, and saved for a wedding. In 2011 we held said wedding (complete with all those last minute expenses), went on a honeymoon, went to Atlanta twice, went to Vegas, and did some bigger house stuff (like getting the house painted). In 2012 we had Milo get sick, spent a week in NY to be with B’s mom when she had surgery, joined my family at the beach in June, B went back to school to get his MBA, we had some car repair, and spent another week in NY over Christmas.

And for us–  budgeting is a bit like dieting. Ever have a donut for breakfast then just think… “Fuck it. Today is already ruined I might as well have that cheeseburger for lunch”? When we’re feeling overcome with big expenses, it suddenly makes that extra $50 at target seem like not a big deal.

But this year? I don’t want to jinx us (knocking on all nearby wood…)…. but this year… I hope it will be different. We’ve made a commitment to almost no travel. We’re spending one weekend in Atlanta this fall and that is IT. We will fly B’s mom to see us because it is cheaper than both of us going there. We will not take a vacation. And we WILL keep an eye on our budget. We put an appointment on our calendar for the first Sunday of every month to sit down and categorize the previous month’s spending and see how we did.

We’ve also made some commitments to cut spending in some new ways. We have some big things we’re saving for (emergency fund, new car for B when his dies, new flooring). I’m generally pretty thrifty and I already do things like calling around for the best insurance prices, calling to ask for lower rates on our cable every year, and keeping our budget numbers for shopping pretty low. Sure, we could cut our shopping budgets even lower or cut back on eating out, but there is a quality of life issue to consider.  What we wanted to think about was, how can we save money without really expending much effort or missing anything? New this year, we’ve added the following savings measures:

1) We switched cable companies entirely. I was upset when our current cable company jacked our rate up $20 last month. When I called to complain they informed me that they only give good rates to NEW customers because there is so much competition for new customers. This is the “industry standard.” Okay… then I’m always going to be a new customer. It’s kind of a pain to switch every 12 months, but it’s a one-time deal and this will drop our cable bill  from $115 to $85 per month. Oh, and they’re giving us a $100 visa gift card. Awesome!

2) We decided to hook up only 1 TV to cable. All three of our TVs are netflix-accessible, and we watch netflix at least half the time. When thinking about how we actually use our TVs, we realized that we rarely use the TVs in the great room or bedroom for normal TV anyways. So why pay an extra $14 per month for two extra boxes that would rarely be used? Forgoing these two boxes (which we could get at any time if we changed our minds) will bring our cable/internet bill down to $71 per month. A total savings of $44 per month or $528 over the next twelve months!

3) We decided to try to lower our electric usage. Our electric bill is really high because we have a lot of electronics and I work from home, which means I’m here using electricity ALL THE TIME. Also, we are generally horrible about leaving lights (and even TVs sometimes… oops) on. So we decided to just pay a bit more attention. Turn of the lights when we leave the room. Turn off the TV if we’re not watching it. Unplug things that are rarely used (electronics use electricity whenever they are plugged in, even if they aren’t on!). I also bought a smart power strip for $15 off of amazon that allowed me to plug all of our TV-dependent electronics (ps3, wii, xbox, apple tv) into it and they automatically are cut off of any power every time I turn the TV off. I don’t have the “give a damn” to plug these in and unplug them every time they’re used, but for $15, I think we’ll more than make our  money back in energy savings. I’ll check back in a few months and let you know if we managed to reduce our usage!

4) We switched electric companies. I didn’t even realize that was an option, honestly. But I decided to look into it and found we could actually save a bit of money by switching. Our current electric company was charging us, on average, 7.9 cents/kWh. The new company I signed us up for charges a flat rate of 6.25 cents/kWh. Based on last year’s usage, we would’ve saved about $218 using the new company. If we manage to reduce our usage this number will obviously be a bit lower— but considering that it took me less than 20 minutes to find and sign up for the new plan, I’d say a couple hundred bucks savings is well worth it.

So, there ya have it! With these changes (that I don’t feel will really affect our quality of life at all) we’re saving at least $44 per month— but I’m guessing closer to $75 per month. That’s like, 5 trips for the both of us to chipotle. Or one average trip to target. Or an extra $900 in our savings account (which means 3 months less car payment for B’s new car– whenever he gets it).

Anyone else in a thrifty mood lately? I’d love to hear any savings/budgeting tips!