expense audit.

debt free Ben Franklin expenses quoteBe very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise…
Ephesians 5:15

I’m on a freakish quest to lower and/or eliminate our expenses in an effort to become debt free.

First thing on my list? Significantly reduce the number of times I have to apply the category “restaurant/dining” to an item in our checking account register. So far, so good. And I haven’t burned anything yet – food, pots or pans, myself…

Next up? Lowering our monthly bills.

“Reducing your living expenses so they fit within 80 percent of your income requires scrutinizing every expense and then finding the best way to reduce it. By reducing everything a little bit, you may be able to avoid eliminating any spending categories. This is going to require creativity and discipline.”

Debt-Proof Living: The Complete Guide to Living Financially Free
by Mary Hunt

I feel like I’ve been on the phone for two weeks! I think I’ve called every vendor we deal with. Here’s how the conversation starts:

“I’m doing an expense audit, going through every bill we have and making sure we’re spending our money wisely. I’ll be getting quotes from some of your competitors and before I do, I just wanted to make sure we’ve got your best price. I also need to know what sets [insert company name here] apart with regard to services so that when I get quotes from your competitors I take into account any special or unique services you provide.”

With only one exception (our AT&T land line phone), in EVERY case, with EVERY vendor, they lowered my bill during that first phone call. Most lowered it so much I’m not even going to get quotes from other vendors because I can already tell from advertisements and web pages that my current vendor is lower. With some companies, I changed the terms of our services to fit our needs better. In some cases our payment stayed the same, but our service was better. In some cases, changing the terms of service also lowered the bill.

I’ll be writing about this process and updating this post with links to those posts. I’m also creating a category called “debt free living.”

First up? Phone service. (Saved $839.28)

Find more ideas over at Works for Me Wednesday, hosted by Kristen at We Are THAT Family. MY previous Works for Me Wednesday posts are HERE.

Works for Me Wednesday posts prior to February 2009 are archived at Rocks In My Dryer.

10 thoughts on “expense audit.

  1. It was a few years ago that my husband and I found ourselves in a true financial crisis and we cut out going out to eat or bringing home carry out. I never thought we ate out much, until we stopped. WOW. I was truly amazed at how much money we were spending and when I realized that I very rarely “really enjoyed” the food, it was a no brainer to stop doing it.

    We now go out to eat maybe once a month for dinner, but we both tend to have lunch out once a week. That’s a vast improvement.

    You may have inspired me to do some phone calling. I really like your script – thank you!

    Kristin – The Goat

    1. Kristin – Just reviewing our account records for the last few months has been a real eye opener! The number of times I saw “restaurant/dining” on a line item was surprising – and motivating!

      And one unexpected bonus is that we are having more family meals at the kitchen table, spending more time together and talking more! (by JSM)

  2. We live on a budget–some would say fairly strict, some not. Some months we have $150 for “entertainment” (which would include babysitting, buying wine, ordering pizza and the like). This month we have $50 b/c we had such a huge financial outlay in June. With four kids we don’t eat out as a family much–maybe 3 or 4 times/year. it’s just too expensive. I might stop at McD’s and bring it home (1 mile from our house), but it’s not happy meals for everyone. I’m too cheap for that!

    I think being involved in sports makes meals much more difficult. We’re not involved in any extra-curricular activities barring an after-school bible club, so that’s helpful.

    Good luck with your whittling down! You might want to read/listen to Dave Ramsey. He’s an excellent financial guru guy, and very down to earth.

    1. Tina – I recently ordered the audio CDs for Dave Ramsey’s “Financial Peace University” FREE from http://www.paperbackswap.com! They shipped yesterday. My focus on being a good financial steward started because Ramsey’s coming to speak in Orlando and our church has been promoting the visit and a Financial Peace University series starting soon. I also like Larry Burkett’s Debt-Free Living and David Bach’s The Automatic Millionaire

      And you’re right, being involved in sports does make things more difficult – the only way to avoid eating out on those days is to plan. Unfortunately, planning is not as easily done than said. But I’m working on it!!! (by JSM)

  3. I learned a lot from Dave Ramsey. I used to listen to him on the radio when I had a subscription to XM (I was renovating my condos and listened to the radio about 12 hours a day.) I have his books – I never thought about paperback swap for those – WOW!

    When I was on a much more strict eating plan than I am now, I would pack a cooler for the day in the morning. I’d fill it with frozen ice packs, salads, cooked chicken, veggies that I liked to eat cold – anything that I was planning on eating for the whole day. If I got called out of the house, I took my color just in case I didn’t make it back home for the meal or snack. It didn’t take me long to work out a pretty good menu for meals on the go and once I got used to making up the cooler each morning, it was a breeze to do it each morning.

    This might be something you could do for sport days – it would be more planning for more than just one person, but totally doable once you figured out what to make ahead of time.


  4. So besides credit cards, what vendors are you calling? Do you mean utilities?

    Several years ago, my hubby contacted Sears about lowering their interest rates. We’d had a Sears card for probably 30 years at that time, but they absolutely refused. So we transferred the remaining balance to another card with a lower interest rate and cut up the Sears cards. Within a month they were on the phone to us, offering a lower interest rate with new purchases, etc. Hubby told them “No Way. You couldn’t do it before, we WON’T do it now.”

    Last week we sent off the final check on our credit cards. Now we’re down to utilities, the mortgage, and the timeshare we can’t get rid of and don’t use. Sigh.

    Most of that extra money is going into savings and we’re planning our first cruise next summer–to Alaska, a place we’ve always wanted to see. The rest will go towards paying off the second mortgage early.

    The house needs some updating and refreshing, but that will just have to be done as we have the money saved up. After almost 39 years of marriage that included a foreclosure, a bankruptcy, cross-country moves, job losses, and a catastrophic illness, it feels good to be down to basics.

    1. Stephanie – Phone, cable, internet, car insurance, life insurance, home alarm, termite bond, pest control… Our mortgage is paid off in 8 years and we only have one credit card at 6% and a home equity line at 2.4% I got that 6% a few years ago by making a similar phone call. I’m also actively working to lower our usage of utilities – mainly power. Can’t negotiate the rates, but i can influence/control the usage. I’ve been policing the programmable thermostats for almost a month. Here’s hoping it’s making a difference.

      You’re renting that timeshare though, right? Our last two Daytona Beach vacations were timeshare rentals I bought on ebay!

      I’m being freakishly tenacious about a spending diet to pay off the credit card first and then . . . . the home equity line. Too embarrassed to quote the balance on that baby.

  5. Nope, it’s $99 a month plus maintenance fees every other year. It was the least we could buy, and we got it thinking we could always upgrade. However, it uses the point system and not the week system, which they persuaded us would be better, but wasn’t. We don’t earn enough points to even spend a week at our home resort every other year, and the points will only accumulate for 2 years.

    Recently they sold it to some sort of Holiday Inn club, and when I was trying to book our vacation back in March with their “short-notice option”, I spent almost an hour on the phone, spoke with 3 different people, and got some unreasonable price to pay in addition to the points we would spend. I then spent 10 minutes online with Orbitz and got more nights at a nicer resort for less money–and no points. This was a real rip-off, but you can’t sell it unless it’s paid off. I will never buy a points timeshare again.

    We had a week timeshare in NM and we went most every year, took friends, with us, and occasionally saved to go two weeks one year, or traded with another location. We really enjoyed it for many years, and I thought this would be just as useful and enjoyable. Lesson learned.

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