How we saved $180,000 image

How We’ve Saved Over $180,000 by Living Differently

Have you ever heard the phrase “Big Hat, No Cattle?” It’s a well-used phrase around our house.

It means…

“All talk and nothing to back it up. “Big hat” is the Western ten-gallon variety; the term is often applied to ranchers. On the theory that if you’re going to wear one, you’d better be a cowboy and not just dress like one, you should be able to produce a head or more of livestock. If you couldn’t, you were just full of hot air.”

I’ve seen SO many people who act like they have all the money in the world but the fact is that there is nothing in their checking account. They don’t have much of a savings and their plan for the future is kind of fuzzy. They have a “Big Hat” (big house, nice car, all the gadgets and gizmos, manicures, a new UTV, etc.) but they have “no cattle.” They actually don’t have any money at all. They are swimming in payments and debt. They are “full of hot air.”

What always baffles me is the number of people who live this way by CHOICE.

Could they have money in their savings? Yes.
Could they build up a good fund for retirement? Yes.
Could they get out of the “rat race” sooner? Yes.

Well, why don’t they? I’ll tell you why.

It’s because they are wasting money EVERY DAY on things they don’t need. Instant gratification has them by the throat.

Here is a list of 7 things people waste their money on that decreases their savings and how we’ve saved over $180,000 by swimming upstream.

1. Paid TV Service

This is a controversial topic. I know. But before you start yelling, hear me out.

Many people have their favorite shows they watch every week…or so I’ve heard. Trying to convince them they can live without 84,729 channels is like trying to convince them they can also live without food and water. Not only is paid TV service a HUGE waste of money, but it’s also a HUGE waste of time (but that’s another soapbox entirely).

Why would you pay for TV when you can get MANY channels with an antenna? Yes, an antenna.

We have a quality antenna (not “rabbit ears” sitting on top of the tv) and we get around 20 channels. That’s enough to keep us busy for a long time. We don’t want/need more than that in our house.

And, in case you’re wondering, YES…we have three small children and they THRIVE without the Disney Channel.

Shocking, isn’t it?

Let’s break this down.

Let’s say satellite TV with 120 channels costs around $100 a month. That’s $1,200 a year in service fees. We’ll leave out the fact that you still have to buy the satellite or pay rent on it.

To pay $1,200 a year for TV when you can get plenty of channels for free is a poor choice any time but ESPECIALLY if you have a mortgage, car payment, student loan debt, etc.

2. Brand New Cars

This one is a big no-no.

Self-made Millionaire, David Bach, interviewed with CNBC a while back and this is what he had to say about buying a brand new car:

“Nothing you will do in your lifetime, realistically, will waste more money than buying a new car,” he tells CNBC Make It. “It’s the single worst financial decision Millennials will ever make.”

That’s because the moment you drive it off the lot, the vehicle starts to depreciate: Your car’s value typically decreases 20 to 30 percent by the end of the first year and, in five years, it can lose 60 percent or more of its initial value.

To make matters worse, “most people borrow money to buy that car,” says Bach. “Why would you borrow money to buy an asset that immediately goes down in value by 30 percent?”


I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Financial adviser, Suze Orman says, “One of the best ways to build financial security is to spend the least amount possible on a car that meets your needs.”

While Orman says it’s best if you can buy a car outright, if you do need to take out of a loan, she suggests choosing a car you can fully own within three years. That way, once the loan is paid off, “all the money you used to pay for the car loan can be redirected toward other financial goals, such as retirement, or saving up for a home, or building a down payment fund for when you do need to get another car.”  CNBC

No one with money sense should ever buy a brand new car. It’s one of the worst financial decisions you could ever make.

If you are serious about paying off debt and building up financial security, buying a quality used car should be something you are doing.

3. Buying “Stuff”

People tend to get distracted by “stuff.”

Does your dog need a Halloween costume? No.

Do you need ANOTHER pair of trendy shoes that you won’t want to wear in a year? No.

Do you need the latest iPhone that you have to make payments on? No.

Do your kids need the latest trendy toys that they will get bored with in a month? No.

Why do people spend so much money on nonsense stuff? Because they don’t choose to tell themselves “no” AND because they choose not to tell their kids “no.” Most of the time, if you stopped to think about each purchase you would realize that you are probably wasting a lot of money each month.

In my adult life, I have learned that people love instant gratification.

If they drive by Sonic, they feel like they need to treat themselves.

When everyone else in their office is going out for lunch, they feel like they deserve to eat out too, so they go.

When the neighbor drives up in a brand new car you know they can’t afford, some people think they need to do the same thing.

Don’t get caught up in this game. Before you start shopping on Amazon, ask yourself a few questions: “Am I shopping because I’m bored? Do I NEED anything?”

You might be surprised at your answers.

Many of us have homes filled with more than we need anyway. How many magazine articles are focused on minimizing our stuff? YET, people keep hitting “Buy Now.”

It makes no sense.

Dave Ramsey has an entire article about this. It’s called “10 Ways to Stop Overspending on Impulse Buys.” He outlines things like making a budget and sticking to it, waiting a day (or longer) before buying something you like to give yourself time to think about it, and shopping with a plan in mind.

Making a budget and sticking to it is what helped us pay off our first and only mortgage in 13 months.

4. Overpriced Cell Phones & Services

Ok. This one really baffles me. People actually make payments on cell phones. That’s the biggest nonsense I can think up.

You can easily buy a quality smartphone that you can pay for out-right. But, a lot of people feel like they DESERVE the latest and greatest phone. (Refer to #3) That is why Apple makes so much money. They make if off people who stand in line for their newest phones.

I was doing a little research about this craziness and discovered that I’m not the only one who thinks that making payments on a cell phone is nonsense. Derek over at has an excellent article about “Why it’s ludicrous to make payments on a cell phone (…and how you can avoid it).” It’s totally worth the read.

Here’s the breakdown.

Let’s say you are paying around $200 monthly for your cell phone and data package.

That’s $2,400 a year just for a phone.

For. A. Phone.

We buy quality cell phones from eBay then we buy inexpensive service plans from Red Pocket.


You can check it out here.

5. Home Internet

We might be one of the only houses in America without internet. Are you gasping for air?

Can we afford home internet? Yes.

Why don’t we have it?

Well, let’s break this down.

What do people use home internet for? There are many people who work from home but a lot of Americans are just browsing Amazon and watching YouTube. That leads to a lot of wasted time and money. We won’t even talk about all the times you click “Buy it Now” when you really shouldn’t.

Internet costs vary greatly. Some people pay $50 a month while others pay $100 or more. Over the course of a year, you will pay $600-$1200. This can be justified if you work from home but not if you’re just surfing and wasting time on YouTube.

I’ll be the first to say that running my blog with home internet would be much easier than using the little bit of data I have on my cell phone. I have spent large amounts of time in a study room at the library with two young children and an infant so I could use the WiFi for a few hours. I feel like I have a legitimate need for internet.

**Let’s not forget to mention MY YouTube Channel here…you know, in case you’re surfing for awkward videos.

However, satellite internet is the only option at our house because of where we live and we refuse to pay the prices we’ve been quoted. Sometimes you have to realize that it’s not a question of whether or not you can afford something; it’s about if you feel a person/company is WORTHY of your money.

The satellite internet company around here doesn’t deserve our money. Not even if we bundle. 😉

Related articles:
8 Reasons Why Your Frugal Life Makes People Mad
How to Save HUNDREDS on Your Grocery Costs
We Don’t Work for the American Dream
5 Money-Saving Hacks to Get Your Bank Account GROWING TODAY!

6. Restaurants

This is a big one. When you eat out, you are wasting money. Period. I don’t even want to argue with you about this.

Even if you’re just running through a fast-food drive through a couple of times a week, it’s best to figure the cost per year. It’s easy to fool yourself by saying that you only spent $5. But what if you eat lunch out every day during the work week? You would be paying $1,300 a year just for fast food burgers.

If you spend MORE than $5 per meal eating out, well…you can do the math. It’s just not worth it.

Now, I know that it costs to eat at home too. But if you budget wisely at the grocery store, you can make MANY healthy meals at home for the price of one night out at a restaurant.

I wrote all about how we did that while we were paying off our first and only mortgage. We didn’t eat cheese for a year, y’all.

7. Salon Services and Spa Treatments

This one really irks me. There is no reason to treat yourself to manicures, hair colors, pedicures, etc. when you have debt to pay off OR if you are trying to save for the future.

It’s about the same as lighting your money on fire. It’s a complete waste.

We won’t talk about massages, facials, pedicures, salt glows (what??), body wraps, hair cuts, hair coloring, makeup, or LED light therapy. Let’s just talk about manicures.

Maybe you get a manicure every two weeks. If you spend $30 each time it adds up to $780 (minus tips) a year. After you add tips, you’re talking about paying almost $1,000 a year for manicures.

It would be much better to put that money toward your savings or debt you owe.

After you add hair coloring, pedicures, etc to that….well, you get my point. It’s a huge waste.

It all adds up.

Savings Worksheet Example:

  1. TV Service: $100 month x 12 months = $1,200 a year
  2. New Cars: $500 month x 12 months = $6,000 a year
  3. “Things” (clothes, gadgets, Amazon impulse buys, etc.): $200 month x 12 months = $2,400 a year
  4. Cell Phone: $200 month x 12 months = $2,400 a year
  5. Home Internet: $100 month x 12 months = $1,200 a year
  6. Restaurants: $5 day x 5 days a week x 52 weeks = $1,300 year
  7. Salon Services: $30 every two weeks = $780 a year

Grand Total: $15,280 a year

We don’t pay for TV Service. We buy used cars instead of brand new ones. We try to limit the amount of “things” we buy. We pay cash for quality cell phones instead of making payments on the newest ones. We don’t have an expensive cell phone contract. We don’t have home internet. We don’t eat out much. And I don’t frequent the salon.

We do all of this by CHOICE and that means that we spend nowhere near $15,000 on these things yearly like a lot of people do. Instead, we put that money into savings.

And we’ve been doing it for 12 years.

Things start to get serious when you put that into your 401K, Roth IRA, Traditional IRA, and savings account.

All of a sudden, those fast-food burgers don’t look so good, do they?

If you take all of these points seriously and cut out unnecessary expenses, you’ll have a big hat AND enough cattle to fill a big Texas ranch.

Yeehaw, y’all!

8 thoughts on “How We’ve Saved Over $180,000 by Living Differently”

  1. Thanks so much for the link to my cell phone post, Lindsey! I can’t believe how much people spend on their cell phones and their plans each year. It’s typically thousands of dollars! Every year! For a phone!


    Glad you wrote about it and are helping people make wise decisions!

  2. How you got out of debt is so inspirational. I got out of debt in my 20s, too (I’m 37 now). The turning point for me was when I realised I couldn’t even afford my train fare to work, even if I put it on my credit card. I stopped buying many things – lunches, coffee, magazine subscriptions, DVDs and a whole lot more. It made a huge difference. I’m sharing your post for others to see.

    1. Thank you for your comment Corinne! Many people don’t realize that all of those “little” things (lunches, coffee, magazine subscriptions, etc.) make a huge impact on their bottom line. I’m so glad you realized it very early! Your story was inspirational to me!

  3. Great article, I Totally agree with your point. We are on our way of getting out of debt , and It took us some time to get our finances set up because we were overspending on little things even without realizing it. Now we are back on track and it feels good to have less debt and better control of our money. Thanks! 🙂

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you’re back on track! You’re so right…it does feel good to have less debt and control of your money. It’s a very freeing feeling!

  4. Thank you for sharing these tips. Nowadays people do not care for the savings. I think that everybody should read your article 😉

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