Ideas for Lowering the Cell Phone Bill

We’ve been a long-time verizon wireless customer. While we like their service, we as Americans pay way more for our wireless service than much of the world. This really bugs our family! We’ve always been a 2 -year contract family for VZW and on average, our mobile bill is about $100/mo (that’s $1200/yr for all you peeps who struggle with math).

We’ve known people who used TracPhones, and pre-paid service for cell phones and have heard that they’ve managed to also have cellular service for far less monthly and yearly cost. At the moment, we’re considering dumping our contract plan and going with something like Trac Phone or pre-paid from Verizon.

We called today to see when my contract expired – 3/2011! That means, if we cancel, we’d have to pay $170 per phone (we have two lines on our plan) – $340 just to get out of the arrangement. We looked online for some ways to get out of the contract, but most of them seem unethical – not something we want to do.

So we explained to the customer service rep at Verizon why we wanted to know our contract end date – so we could lower our expenses. She was sympathetic and tried to offer alternatives. Unfortunately, we already had the cheapest plan, so there was no lowering the plan cost. We did decide to remove the text messaging package saving $60/yr.

Turns out though, that about three weeks ago, they had called and offered to move us to a different, newer plan for no extra fees. It included some extras, etc. By agreeing, we renewed our contract and that’s why it wasn’t up for renewal for 2 years. The CSR informed us that we could still go back to our old plan which had en ending date of August of this year.

So, we should only have to pay $170, minus $5/month that we’ve had the contract open, so more like $50 if we cancel. Considering that’s only half of one month’s phone bill, that’s acceptable. Most likely, we’ll wait til August then dump the whole thing in favor of pre-paid.

At the same time, we did signup for CellTradeUSA which provides a service of matching up people who want to get out of contracts with those who want to get into contracts (but don’t want to pay the setup fees, etc.). This way, we can have the financially responsible party changed to someone else thereby having them assume the remainder of the contract. This might end up working which would also get us free and clear.

Anyone else have experience doing the above? How have you lowered your cell phone expenses?

Ideas for Lowering the Electric Bill

To live a simpler lifestyle, we’re convinced that we need to lower our consumption of goods and services so that we don’t need the same financial resources to prosper. I’ve been thinking about this a lot – not in a fearful way, but with a desire to lower my expenses.

What we’re doing is building a list of the irreducible minimum expenses we have. Then, looking at what can be re-worked on that list to cost less money. For most people, some bills cannot really be lowered. Usually that is your rent/mortgage, car payment, student loans and perhaps some utilities. For now, we want to focus on lowering the electric bill. For us, that’s about $250/month.

Here’s some things we’ve heard, or are personally considering.

We’ve done the stuff that many have done – replaced inefficient appliances, installed CFL (Compact Flourescent) light bulbs, etc. Sometimes that’s not enough! Here’s some things we’re considering or have been doing:

  1. Unplug everything you can – seriously – unplug everything you’re not using that does not have to run. Many electric items (those that have power chargers especially) use power even when not in use. Unplug them and you’ll save money.
  2. Practice an energy “Sabbath” – We’re considering taking a 24 hour period of rest from using electricity every week. Heh, the Amish do it all the time, we should be able to as well. Of course things like the fridge and hot-water heater would stay plugged in, but we would otherwise not use any electricity. Light candles (carefully of course) and play games with the family. Start a fire in the fireplace (if you have one), be romantic (where appropriate), have a slumber party with the kids – etc. Of course there’s much gained here aside from a lower electric bill!
  3. Get on your electric company’s budget plan – this might not save money per se, but will make budgeting for electric much easier.
  4. Go outside and stay outside -Unless you’re bubble boy, being outside generally doesn’t require electricity. Endure the hot or cold and go outside for a few hours. While you do, you’ll be (assuming the above is true), you’ll be consuming less electricity. Sun light is free! While you’re there, do some hard work that will pay you back like gardening, composting, exercising, etc. Turn your time and energy into assets!
  5. Go somewhere else where and when possible – if you have the discipline to do so without actually spending more money, try going places more often that are already using power for heat, lights, etc. For example, turn down your heat or A/C, turn off your lights, and go spend the afternoon at the library, the mall, etc. There’s plenty of places that are public that one can go and be in a bright, warm environment! Of course, ideally it would be great if these places were more green in their use of these resources, but at least by you being there, they’ll be getting the most out of their use.
  6. As mentioned above, if you haven’t already done so, consider more energy efficient appliances and installing CFL bulbs in your home. Both will require initial expenses, but could also provide lower cost in the long run.
  7. Consider fun stuff like building a solar oven!

This is just what we’ve considered so far. There are likely tons of other ideas. If you have em’ please post them in the comments for all to see and benefit from.

Till then, best wishes on lowering your electric bill!

Sharing is Key

Corporations have collectively convinced us all that we need so many things to have an enjoyable, prosperous life. To top it all off, they’ve spent nearly a century convincing us that we each need our OWN [insert widget, product, gadget, etc here] in order to live. After all, if you’re a corporation selling widgets, you need to sell them to as many people as possible, right?

It’s in a corporation’s best interst that we don’t share with one another, otherwise the market for the item is smaller. Sharing then is the enemy of corporate greed and capitalism (I am not saying that the two are one in the same).

We’re convinced that a simpler life is highly unlikely without earnest sharing of resources among friends, family, neighbors, and community.

Think about it for a second. Say you need a shovel. A shovel might cost $20 for a good one. Your neighbor might need one too, and perhaps a close friend. What are the chances that you will all need your shovels at the same exact time? Why not collaborate (work together) with your friends and neighbors, and pitch in to purchase one shovel among you? Yeah, you might need to be a little more patient and flexible to do this – but what is the harm in that? Now you have use of a shovel that cost you 1/3 of what it would have cost, and each person’s expenses are lowered.

Now apply this same idea to bigger items (lawn mowers, cars, bicycles, computers, freezers, food, homes, gardens) and you can see that there’s lots of room for lowering our expenses and living a richer life by simply sharing with one another. If we all did that, would we need the incomes that we have? Could we live on less?

We know that there are times when this is not practical or feasible, or perhaps cannot be done for some other reasons. We also acknowledge that this takes a lot of cooperation to pull off. Personally, we’re convinced that this cannot be done without following two commands of Jesus Christ – love God will all your being, and love your neighbor as yourself! Just think how the world would be, heck – even your neighborhood – if everyone just did those two things!

The beautiful thing about sharing is that it’s something we can all do at least a little bit. We need to learn to share, we need to learn to give, and learn to love our neighbors. In doing so, we’ll learn to live a simpler, sustainable, and more prosperous life.

Welcome to the journey to simple

Like many, we’re concerned about where our country is headed. At the same time, we’re excited about the resulting transformations in our own minds that have resulted in a desire for a simpler, sustainable life. We hope that this blog will be a place where we can share our considerations, decisions, successes and failures as we journey towards a simple life.