Control Your Spending to Build Your Net Worth

If you can’t stop the vicious cycle of living paycheck to paycheck, you’ll never retire.  I’m not even talking about early retirement.  Retirement, be it early or normal, is a privilege not a right.  It takes time and effort to reach that point in life.

So here are some things you can do to control your spending, allowing you to sock away the cost savings towards your investments and build the FU money.  I’ve done some math showing you how diverting these spending habits towards investing can add up over time.

DITCH THE CABLE

They always give you the nice teaser rate when you’re a new customer.  After the introductory rate expires the cost skyrocket.  You can easily spend $100 monthly on cable for the privilege to flip through 200 channels and not find anything to watch.  Throw in FCC, state and local, and cable box rental fees, and the cost only go up from there.  Plus you know the cost of cable is only going to go up each year.

If you have an HD TV, get an amplified antenna.  You’ll be able to get a bunch of OTA (over the air) channels in your area.  You may have to try out a few antennas until you find the right one, but it’s worth the effort (just keep the box and receipt and return the antennas that suck back to the store).  Check out AntennaWeb for info on broadcasting in your area and TitanTV for channel listings.  When I lived in Dallas, I got a stupid amount of channels, all in glorious 1080i with digital sound.  One time cost of about $50 vs an ongoing cable bill that will only go up each year.  Give it a shot.

Antenna TV- not what it used to be

Antenna TV- not what it used to be

But what about the ugly antenna?  You don’t actually need a separate antenna for each TV.  You can have a single antenna running the signal for all the TV’s in your home.  In my place the garage has an access panel for the cable coax wiring.  Think about it logically.  The cable company has a cable coming from the street to your home.  From there it splits off into your different rooms.  Accessing the cable panel, there will be a signal splitter.  The cable coming into your home will connect to the IN of the splitter.  This is actually where you would hook up your antenna.  Rescan your TVs and you should have OTA broadcast on your TVs from one antenna.  Play with the positioning of the antenna, it can make a difference.  Sometimes you might have to buy a better splitter if the cable company cheaped out, but these can be had online for cheap.  Check out videos online for more details.  Older homes will most likely have the wiring somewhere outside.

Where I live now, I’m unable to receive one station with an antenna, The CW.  To get my Arrow and Flash fix I just go to the CW website and can watch the new episode the next day for free.  If you have to watch on a big screen, learn about HTPC (home theatre PC), basically a computer hooked up to your TV.  I have mine set up as a DVR for the OTA stuff.  It’s awesome.  Side note, building computers is super simple and fun stuff.

More recent tablets, laptops, and 2 in 1’s with certain Intel CPUs have WiDi technology, or look into Miracast technology.  You basically plug a little dongle into your TVs HDMI port, and your tablet (or phone, laptop, 2in1) wirelessly transmits the video and audio to your TV.  Your tablet basically becomes a remote for what your see on your TV.  Watch everything on your computer, but wirelessly through your TV.  I personally use an Asus T100 2in1 or HP Stream 7 tablet along with the older version of the Microsoft Wireless display adapter (this is the newer version).  I prefer the MSFT adapter over Chromecast because of some limitations of chromecast and the need for it to also be connected to your wifi.  With WiDi, anything on your tablet can be cast.  Also the MSFT adapter doesn’t need wifi access, just the tablet.

Other options for cutting cable include Crackle, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and the individual network websites themselves.  There are also steaming players like Rokus and Apple TV to simplify the process.  Sound off below on your favorite ways for ditching cable.

So assuming you can cut cable out of your budget at $100 per month and invest instead, over a 10 year time frame, earning 6% per year, you would have $16,387 socket away in investments.

CUT BACK ON EATING OUT

This should be self explanatory.  Eating out is expensive.  A lunch can easily cost you $10, dinner and a few drinks can get you to $30+ per person.  Heaven forbid you go out for a night of drinking in your early 20s.  I “remember” $100 tabs when I had those night.  This category alone can be several hundred dollars wasted a month.  I worked with a guy that ate out virtually every meal, breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and visits to the vending machines as well).  Let’s say this category can range from $400-500 monthly.  I don’t have a realistic estimate in this category anymore, since I pretty much avoid eating out.  I just don’t care for the food at most restaurants.  To save money, learn to cook and pack leftovers for lunch the next day.  Do your cooking on the weekend and freeze the meals for the week.  When you go out for dinner, exercise control.  What are your favorite tips to save on eating out?

Lets assume you cut back on eating out to the tune of $300 per month and invested instead.  Over 10 years at a 6% rate of return, you would amass $49,163.80 in financial assets.

CELL PHONES

These stupid bills are expensive, easily getting  to $100 a month.  Look to cut back on your plan where possible.  It’s also worth looking into the prepaid plans.  I’ve only ever used a prepaid plan going back to 2001.  I basically pay for minutes when needed.  I am also a paying customer for Skype.  It cost $30 for the year and I can call domestic cellphone and landline numbers.  Obviously, there is a Skype app as well, so I use Skype on my cell phone whenever I have access to Wifi.  Annually, I spend about $40 for the year for the privilege to have a cell phone and talk to others.  A typical cellphone bill would run about $100 monthly.

Sidenote: Did you know you can easily get cell phones unlocked these days?  I’ve gotten 2 old iphones unlocked from AT&T that I plan to sell, and 2 lumia 640’s unlocked from AT&T now working on Tmobile for my parents.  This is useful if you find a phone from a different cell provider and would like it working with your carrier.  Also, if you are going overseas and need to pickup a local sim card to use with your cell phone, this saves big bucks per minute vs using a domestic carrier overseas.  Check it out for AT&T and look it up online for other carriers (People are also readily willing to practically give away their old tech.  You can find co-workers selling old iphones for not a lot.  Purchase those up, unlock them, and churn them on craigslist for a nice and easy profit.  Apple products have the best resell value).

Lets assume your not as drastic as me, but switch to a prepaid plan and cut your cell phone bill from $100 down to $50 monthly (I was just at Walmart and saw some monthly plans starting as low at $25).  That $50 per month savings invested over 10 years and earning 6% per year would grow to financial assets of $8,193.

DROP THE LAND LINE

This goes hand in hand with having a cell phone.  If you have a cell phone, you don’t have a need for a land line (unless you live out in the country and only have access to dial up internet service).  This can run from $20-25 per month after all the government fees.  Alarm systems these days don’t need a landline.  Sometimes your cable and internet provider will sell you a bundle package that saves you money the more you spend.  Read that last sentence again.  The more you spend, the more you save.  That’s about as dumb as clipping a coupon for cat food, not owning a cat, and buying cat food because you had a coupon.  Bundling cable, phone, internet, to save money, while at the same time not needing all three services is pointless.  My parents had this with Cox.  It saved them like $5 a month bundling.  Straight out dropping the phone saved them more than bundling.

Again, lets assume $20 per month invested, as opposed to being used on a landline.  Over 10 years at a 6% annualized rate of return, you would have $3,277 socked away.

COMBO OF CUTTING CAR DEPENDENCE & LIVING CLOSE TO WHAT YOU NEED

During my working years, I lived in condos and townhomes.  I figured if I had to go to work, I might as well avoid having to drive 1 to 1.5 hours to work in Dallas traffic, because of living in the suburbs.  Eventually even 30 minutes in the car was unbearable.  The last 5 years of work, I lived in a condo 2.2 miles from work.  I would start to ride a bike to work 75% of the time was the goal.  The only things that would keep me from riding my bike were mornings when it was raining or waking up to 90 degree weather (yes this happens in Dallas, and it’s humid).  I could actually get to and from work in 10 minutes, where a car would take about 20.  I got judged hard core for riding a bike to work, but I didn’t give a fuck.  I remember this old lady every time would talk about walking or riding a bike when she was younger and times were tough.  Several douche bags would size me up and judge that I came into the office in shorts and tennis shoes.  I could care less, I had my eye on the prize- not going back to that place permanently.  Cutting your dependence on a car is great.  When gas was running $4 a gallon, I’m only filling up once a quarter.  The price of oil had no effect on me.  You also have the side benefit of less wear and tear on your car, reducing maintenance cost.  But also biking is pretty good exercise for you as well.  Driving less to and from work is less stressful as well.  I’m not one of those anti-car types either.  I love old cars and think of them as works of art.  Hell, I own 2 cars (one being a 33 year old Datsun).

Oh Amsterdam, I miss your socially acceptable cycling lifestyle

Oh Amsterdam, I miss your socially acceptable cycling lifestyle

To cut car dependence, you have to live close to what you need to live.  I basically needed to be close to work and close to a food source.  Parks, trails, and libraries were a bonus.  Now, I just need to be close to a food source and have trails everywhere around me.  Living close to what you need, so you can cut car dependence can save you around $250-350 per month in reduced car related cost.

So using the low figure of $250 a month earning a 6% return per year over 10 years, you would have $40,969.83 under your belt.

BUY LESS HOUSE/RENT LESS FANCY APARTMENT

I worked with dudes buying 3000 sq ft homes when it was just a husband/wife no kids.  They’d buy as much house as they could afford, stretching their budget to the limit for housing.  Hey it’s what the mortgage company approved them for and the real estate agent showed them every house in that price range.  I remember these dudes taking out the awesomeness of 80/10/10 loans or some variation of it.  Those were the crazy days of NINJA loans.

"You mean people don't know what they're signing?"

“You mean people don’t know what they’re signing?”

The problem with buying that maximum amount of house you can afford is best described in this video from George Carlin:

So, not only do you accumulate more shit, your associated bills are higher: heating, cooling, taxes, insurance.  Buying the right sized home within a right sized budget can easily save you about $500 monthly.

$500 saved monthly and invested at 6% return per year for 10 years grows to $81,939.

On a side note, I’ve known some women who put off buying a home, thinking they’ll be married at some point, so why own a home.  Those same women a decade later, still single, still renting in the nicest parts of town.  The last time I knew how much they were paying in rent was $1500 monthly and that was years ago before Dallas rents started to go crazy.  That’s a lot of lost time building equity.

Another side note, I used to be a landlord.  It was a pain in the ass (maybe a post about that someday).  I had a dude rent from me for 7 years.  He was always saying that he would leave after this years lease.  It was like clock work.  Every year signing a new contract, “I’ll be here just for this year”.  Following year same story, new contract.  After 7 years he more than paid for the place in rent, covering my purchase price.  Crazy thing, he wanted to buy the place from me after renting for 7 years.  He didn’t have any cash, so that was the end of that and I stopped landlording.

If you insist on buying a mini mansion, I’d look to cash flow the property.  Rent out extra rooms to friends and split the utility cost.  I had a buddy doing this and it worked well.  If you’re renting an expensive apartment, look at getting a roomie.

STAY HEALTHY

A side benefit to cutting out on the eating out, you can eat healthier food at home.  Restaurants love butter.  Butter, much like ranch dressing and bacon, make everything taste better.  So restaurants are pretty generous in their use of butter.Other things to do to stay healthy include working out.  Whether lifting weights, running, or biking, some form of physical activity is needed to stay healthy.  So get off your ass.  Obesity is the number 1 killer in the world, long ago surpassing cancer.

I can’t even come up with a dollar amount to put on this category.  All I know is that going to the doctor and medicine isn’t cheap.  Dealing with the insurance company about why something wasn’t covered is a pain in the ass.  A little exercise goes a long way.  So for this category, just imagine an American Express commercial:

Being Healthy=Priceless

Last year I bought a fitness tracker.  It told me kind of what I thought it would.  When I was working, I wasn’t getting enough sleep (typically 5 hours) and workdays I didn’t move a whole lot.  Since retirement, I have time to bike everyday, lift some weights for about an hour a day, and I get a restful 8 hours of sleep.  The idea is that in the long run, when I’m old, I can be healthy enough to not be on any medications and doctors visits will just be check ups.

So there you have it.  A short list of things you can do to control spending and give you a good start to building some FU money.  I didn’t even mention paying attention to sales and looking for markdowns at the grocery store, but you probably knew that already.

Adding up the totals from above we’ve come up with habits that will build to almost $200,000 after 10 years ($199,932) and I’d say that was not all that difficult to get to.  Where did that figure come from?  Well, the cutting back and controlling your cash outflows led to a total monthly savings of $1220.  $1220 socked away and invested at a rate of return of 6% per year for 10 years gets you to $199, 932.

If we change the 6% return to 7%, we get $211,163.

At 8%, the amount grows to $223,194.

Some observations:  $1220 monthly comes to $14,640 for the year.  You are close to being able to max out your 401(k) with those savings.  You would definitely be able to max out an IRA.  After 10 years, if you have about $200,000 socked away in financial assets, congratulations, you have better liquidity and I’d venture to say higher than average net worth than your typical household (2011 Census Data).

If after 10 years of controlling the above expenses, you have $200,000 saved up, don’t contribute more to your stash of cash and just let it grow for 20 more years at 6%, you would build up $662,040 of liquid investments.

If you took that $662,040 in investments and created a portfolio invested in dividend paying stocks that has a dividend yield of 3%, you are looking at $19,861 in dividends coming in annually (and growing if done right).

Just some things to think about.  Sound off below, what are you’re tips and tricks for cutting some expenses?

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Readers Comments (4)

  1. I completely agree with you here. I’m constantly looking for ways to cut costs and live below my means. I can’t understand folks who live paycheck to paycheck.
    I’m curious about your investment strategy. I see many posts here about dividend paying stocks. Is your main strategy investing large amounts into consistent dividend paying stocks? What are your thoughts on mutual funds? Feel free to point me to one of your previous posts if you have already explained this. Thanks.

    • Hi JW,
      Check out 2 of my post, http://bamfmoney.com/2015/09/yield-on-cost/ and http://bamfmoney.com/2016/01/a-dividend-extravaganza/
      Dividend Extravaganza has my dividend portfolio towards the bottom in an Excel Spreadsheet (it needs to be updated since I just rolled over my retirement plan). I’m mainly interested in dividend growth stocks. I use XOM as an example in the Yield on Cost as to why I like this strategy. Basically, I’m going to live off my dividend income, yet the income should also grow each year as well. Not sure of the last time I sold a stock I own.

      I hate mutual funds. I sold them for 15 years working at a small mutual fund company (it was a job). It’s highway robbery that most funds underperform their benchmarks and investors get the opportunity to pay annual fees for that honor. I had my money in that retirement plan invested in a small cap fund. It underperformed the Russell 2000 index by 1% per year over 10 years and I also had to pay 1.3% in fees. Had I just left that money there for the next 10 years, the total fees would have come to something like $64,000+. During that time frame, I would have loved to just put my contributions in IWM. For someone starting out, low cost passive funds with Vanguard or a low cost ETF is a good way to go (or look into DRIP plans with individual companies). Really, I think every other mutual fund company doesn’t even really need to exist. Once the assets start building, I’m a fan of individual stocks. I’m not a trader, so my fees for the next 10 years will amount to practically $0.00 (I’ll stop the drip when I need to tap funds and just transfer the cash. My brokerage company doesn’t really make money off of me, yet they keep sending me free crap).

  2. I’ve done a pretty good job of cutting expenses the past few years. I sold my car when I moved to Manhattan. Also work provides me a laptop, iPhone, and pays my phone bill. I have cable right now and decided against trying to get rid of it since I have roommates and am moving out in the next two months anyways.

    • Hi Fervent,
      Are you getting new roomies? I rented out an extra bedroom to a friend years back. It worked for both of us, he got dirt cheap rent, I got a little cash for an empty room (and started getting rid of some stuff in the process). Having roommates is a great way to lower housing cost. Real pointless in owning a car in a major city like Manhattan or Chicago that have mass public transit. I hear the public bike program is pretty massive around you. I’ve also heard that in Chicago, parking spots are not always included in the sale of a condo (which blows my mind)

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