People I meet usually have a few questions once they find out that I write about personal finance. For starters, they wonder how I got into it. Well, it really has to do with my $86,000 mortgage payoff goal. Blogging became an outlet for me. Now, as I work to pay off a NEW mortgage, I’m hoping you’ll follow along on my journey.

Like before, it’s going to take EARNING MORE and SPENDING LESS to accomplish my goal. I must admit that I’m more interested in the “spending less” part of that equation this time around. Instead of simply working more hours doing anything I can to make money, I’m going to try to work SMARTER, not necessarily HARDER.


In the meantime, I’m focused on reducing my expenses. This is something I had a lot of success with the first time around. Once I paid off my first mortgage in 2 years, I eased up on myself a bit. Now, it’s time to focus. Today, I want to share a few unconventional ways that I save money. When I tell people about these things, they sometimes cut me strange looks.

1) I have a budget cell phone carrier: I traded in my iPhone 5 in January for a Moto X, the phone offered by Republic Wireless. Since then, I’ve had a $25/month unlimited talk, text and data plan with this budget carrier. Thanks to referral bonuses, I haven’t paid a cell phone bill in months. I don’t have a fancy  iPhone, but I have a smartphone that does everything I need it to.

2) I take the bus to work: After relocating to a major city, I decided that a car no longer fit my lifestyle. In addition to the monthly payment, parking a vehicle in a garage can cost $300/month where I live. Now, I take the bus to work early in the morning. It costs $1.75 for the 25 minute ride to work. I generally take the train home, which is closer to $3. That’s cut my commuting costs to about $100 a month. When I’m not at work, I try to walk as much as I can and there’s always a rental car for weekend trips.

3) I buy discounted gift cards… with gift cards: Have you done this? I buy American Express gift cards at a discount through TopCashBack, then use those gift cards to buy discounted gift cards to retailers using The discount for the American Express cards isn’t huge (2 – 3%), so I generally buy a gift card of $500 or more to make it worth my trouble. The discounts from retailers on, however, can be substantial. I recently got 11% off a gift card to CVS and 13% off T.J. Maxx.

4) I don’t buy Starbucks often: On vacation, I’ll do it… but I have friends who spend $5 to $10 a day at Starbucks. What a waste! They sell the same coffee in the grocery store. I’ll even admit to drinking the off-brand coffee they have at work to save money. I just use a quality coffee creamer to make it go down easier. Brewing coffee at home can save $500 a year, according to a price comparison I conducted. I’d much rather use that cash to go on a trip!

5) I don’t have cable TV… or a TV for that matter: I dropped a cable TV package a few years ago. I know this is something a lot of you are doing. Some folks choose to get Netflix, but I haven’t done that. In fact, I’ve lived the past 6 months without a TV at all. That’s not to say I don’t watch it. I actually work in the entertainment business. Now, TV is more of a special treat and I’ll go to a friend’s house or to a bar to catch whatever I want to see. I stream everything else on my computer.

These are just a few of the ways I save. You can read more in my Get Rich Guide. In the meantime, I challenge you to find ways to trim your budget that won’t affect your lifestyle. That’s the key. The changes I’ve made haven’t impacted my happiness. In fact, I’ve done them to live a happier, debt-free life.