By Kelly Hodges
Saving money on a single purchase is great, but saving money month after month is even better! Bills that recur each month often take up a big chunk of the budget, so cutting spending in these areas can really add up to significant savings over time. Sure it’s nice to save $100 on a new cell phone, but if you can cut your monthly bill by $30 this will save you much more in the end, $360 over the course of a year! Here are some common recurring bills, and some tips to help you shrink them.
1. Cell Phones. Take a look at your statement and what your typical usage is. Are you paying for more minutes than you ever use, or unlimited texts and data that you’re not taking advantage of? If you’re not sure you can turn to an online tool like Billshrink.com that will do the evaluation for you. Simply enter in some basic info like your typical minute, text, and data usage, number of lines, carrier, and what you are currently paying and they will do a search to see if there are cheaper plans available from either your same carrier or a competitor.
2. Home Phone. First question, do you really need one? Can you get by with just your cell phone? If the answer is yes, then call and cancel your service. If you still need a “land line” consider using an alternative type phone like MagicJack or Skype that provide home phone equivalent service through the internet, but are much cheaper than traditional land line plans.
3. Internet. Are you paying big bucks for lightning speed internet service? While we all want to surf as fast as possible, often there isn’t an appreciable difference between the “Ferrari” internet connection and the more moderately priced 4-cylander version. We recently downgraded from our provider’s “Max Turbo” (24Mbps) to the “Max Plus” (18Mbps) and never noticed the difference, except the $10 it took off our bill each month. Unless you do a lot of video conferencing or online streaming, the more moderate grade internet plan should work just fine.
4. Cable TV. Again, the first question to ask yourself is do you need this? There are alternative ways to see movies and TV shows through services like Hulu, Netflix, iTunes, or network websites that don’t come with the steep price tag of cable. If you can’t live without cable, it’s worth calling around to check out competitor’s prices. If you don’t want to switch providers, still get a quote from a competitor and then call your provider and see if they can match (or beat) your competitor’s price. If you’ve paid your bills on time and proven to be a good customer chances are they’ll find some special “deal” for you. I call our provider every six months to renegotiate our bill, and I’ve found that by simply stating “I’m considering canceling my service” that I get connected to the “retentions department” who has the authority to adjust the price I’m paying.
5. Utilities. So you don’t really have the option to cancel your electric or heating service, but you can be smart about your energy consumption. Turn off unused devices, or better yet unplug them. Use a programmable thermostat so your home is at a comfortable temperature when you’re home, and cooler (or warmer) when you’re not. Use fluorescent light bulbs instead of incandescent. If you need to replace an appliance make sure you’re getting one that’s energy efficient. Yes you may pay a bit more up front, but if you calculate the energy savings over the life of that appliance it’s well worth it in the end!
6. Insurance. Here’s an area where it pays to shop around. No it’s not the most exciting thing in the world, but shopping for cheaper insurance can add up to big savings. If 15 minutes really “can save you 15% or more on car insurance” then it’s worth a couple of phone calls! Look into bundling your auto, home, umbrella, or other policies with a single provider, as this will also yield higher discounts. Also consider raising your deductible, which will lower you monthly payments as well.
Take a good hard look at these and other recurring bills in your personal finances. Remember that even a modest $10 savings in any of these categories will translate to hundreds of dollars in the years to come.
Any opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author, and do not in any way represent the views or opinions of her employer or any other person or entity.