Crack open your piggy bank and you’ll see something interesting.
Embossed on every US coin—pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters, half-dollars, and dollars—is the phrase e pluribus unum, which means “out of many, one.” This motto describes our nation’s unity.
But let’s do something flippant. Let’s imagine that we can change around these venerated words to make them read e unum pluribus or “out of one, many.”
Why do this Latin switcheroo?
In order to coin a new phrase—a fresh motto that proclaims one of frugality’s great recurring themes:
If you rid yourself of a single large expense and replace it with several smaller ones, you often receive the same value at a much lower cost.
In other words, a simple replacement of the one with the many can produce huge savings. And since the Latin for our newly minted motto appears on every coin of the realm, everyone can remember it easily (you might even say that the words e, unum, and pluribus have been widely circulated).
In today’s post, we review e unum pluribus not by flipping coins, but by flipping through five informative charts. As you browse over this material, a clear pattern will begin to emerge. Pay heed. Understanding this pattern can save you thousands per year on your household spending.
E Unum Pluribus No. 1: Cable TV
Until a few months ago, Mrs. Moose and I were paying about $650 per year for cable. In return, we received 24/7 access to 250+ channels—only a few of which ever contained any content we actually wanted to see.
So we turned to e unum pluribus. We fired the monolithic cable company and replaced it with several cheaper sources:
(1) an amplified indoor antennae that delivers 38 local channels for free (a one-time cost of $40);
(2) a Google Chrome device that allows us to wirelessly transfer internet video content from the laptop to the big screen for free (a one-time cost of $35);
(3) Netflix ($96 per year);
(4) Amazon Prime (purchased on sale for $72); and
(5) DVDs borrowed from the library, RedBox, and friends.
Our personal list of content hardly stands as the last word on video. Many other streaming services exist: Hulu, Crackle, Sling, and HBO among them. The internet overflows with free video content: CSpan, CBSSports, FreeDocumentaries.org, OpenCulture, etc. So far we’re satisfied with our TV changeover. We certainly don’t miss cable. Annual savings: about $500.
E Unum Pluribus No. 2: Health Club
I once spent heavily on club dues. Now I lose weight for free by exercising outside or at home on equipment that’s already paid for. My indoor gym includes a Nordic Track machine, dumb bells, and a weight bench. To spice things up, I sometimes borrow exercise DVDs from the library. Annual Savings: about $600.
E Unum Pluribus No. 3: Winter Heat
Staying warm in the winter doesn’t mean that you have to set the furnace at 72 degrees. You can save by heating people instead of empty rooms.
At our house, we use portable heaters, heated throws, and heated mattress pads. We insulate windows with crystal clear plastic indoor window kits. We wear sweaters. Annual Savings: about $400.
E Unum Pluribus No. 4: Dog
We recently inherited a dog. Theoretically, we could replace her with a combination of pet alternatives: we could take the neighbor’s dog for walks, visit the zoo, manage an ant farm, head out for bird watching, or even harbor a hedgehog. While I would prefer to go in any or all of these several directions, Mrs. Moose has dug in her hoofs. So we’re dog owners for the foreseeable future. Annual Savings: zero, I’m afraid (but maybe you can do better than me).
E Unum Pluribus No. 5: Car
We’re considering whether to sell one of our two cars. As the above chart reveals, getting by with one vehicle seems doable. Car shares are parked within easy walking distance of our home. We also bought year-long regional bus passes for just $95 each. Potential Annual Savings: about $1,200 that we wouldn’t have to shell out for insurance, maintenance, ownership taxes, registration fees, repairs, tires, gas, and car washes.
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Any way you flip it—whether by using some loose change or a few colored charts—e unum pluribus can save you major coin.
This strategy works at slashing many other household expenses. If you’d like to explore e unum pluribus further, draw your own chart for one or more of these common outlays:
- Air Conditioning
- Airline Tickets
- Trash Removal
- Pubs and Bars
- Downhill Ski Passes
- Golf Club Memberships
- Magazine Subscriptions
- Professional Sport Season Tickets
- Monthly Parking