Saturday, November 12, 2011

Six Expenses You Can Reduce or Eliminate that Add Up

1) Ditch the land line. Why do you still have this?  We haven't had one for years and probably never will.  You probably only get calls from telemarketers on your land line.  And the phone companies charge all those stupid taxes and fees.  You don't need it--you can still call 911 on your cell phone.  Switch to your cell phone only.  Cell plans provide more minutes than ever before, and everyone probably calls you on it already anyway.  If you're concerned about going over your minutes, look over your last few bills and the number of "anytime" minutes used.  Only if necessary, research upgrading your plan.  Bumping up your minutes will probably cost you less than your land line.  Tell anyone who IS still calling you on your land line to call your cell from now on, and cut the service.  But before you go too crazy with the cell plan...

2) Take a closer look at that fancy schmancy cell plan with lots of features. And your texting costs.  Yes, I know texting is convenient and has become the norm for communication on the go.  (And yes, my husband and I are both guilty of having this included in our cell plan.)  To minimize your cell costs... 
  1. Actually use your calling minutes. You have to pay whether you use them or not, so you may as well use them. While you're at it, plan on calling your folks or extended family over the weekend using your "night & weekend" minutes.
  2. Text wisely. Conversations eat up a lot of texts so be efficient.  Recognize when an actual phone conversation would be more effective than a text.
  3. Text for free. Download an app that can make all of your texts absolutely free, such as textPlus (Android), Kik Chat (BlackBerry),  TextFree Unlimited and TextNow (iPhone).  Some of these apps cost money, you may not be able to use your existing phone number, and you may experience delays in sending or receiving messages.  But if you're willing to deal with that, you can save some of your cash.
  4. Evaluate plan features and cut where you can.  Do you need all those minutes? What about that expensive data plan? How often will you really need your phone to be a wireless hotspot?  Does every family member really need their own phone? The list goes on and on.

3) Cut cable or satellite. As a TV lover, I know how scary it can be to think about losing your favorite shows, the DVR, the HD channels, the sports, the movies...You justify the expense by telling yourself that the cost is relatively cheap, and if you go without cable, you'll be tempted to find entertainment through shopping, eating out, going to the movies, and so forth and likely spending way beyond the cost of cable.

Yes, that is a possibility.  You will have to find plenty of free sources of entertainment for your family, such as the library, parks, bike trails, community events, and so on.

But cutting the cord on cable or satellite doesn't mean you never can watch tv again.  We switched to Hulu Plus ($8/month), Roku boxes (2 boxes at around $80 each), and an HD antenna ($40).  Yes, the initial costs of the switchover weren't cheap for us, but we were previously paying $52/month for satellite (Not super expensive, but hey, that could be a week of groceries for us!)  We're now saving about $45/month, and after 5 months we will have recouped our initial costs.  Everything after that is pure savings.  Not bad, and we're nearly there already.  You could probably get the equipment cheaper too, utilizing Craigslist or Ebay, but we opted to go for new so we could have increased flexibility for returns if we changed our mind about the Hulu/antenna combination.  I do miss my DVR, but I'm willing to deal if I only have to spend $8 a month on TV. 

4) Cut your man's hair. (Yes, you can do it!)  I may get some flack for this, but most men's haircuts are nothing special.  Sorry guys. Unless you/your man have a longer haircut, you can probably cut it yourself.  I have no training, and have been cutting my husband's and son's hair for over a year.  We recouped the cost of our clippers within one haircut.  Now that's awesome.

Funny thing is, the home haircuts started sort of by accident.  The cause-- Hubby wanted a haircut before a job interview.  He procrastinated until the day before and then couldn't get to the barber shop before it closed.  Out of options and not wanting to look shaggy for his big interview, he went and bought some clippers (~$20-25 at Target), told me the different lengths for the top and back/sides (he always had to tell the barber the lengths, too), and we did it right there in the kitchen.  He was pleased at the outcome, I was pleased at the cost, and that was that.  Now I do our son's haircuts, too.  Besides saving money, it's super convenient.  And my husband says I do a more thorough job.  Sweet! 

5)  Reduce monthly entertainment costs.  Let's face it.  We all need to blow off some steam and have a little fun once in a while.  But some of that fun stuff isn't cheap.  There are different ways to divide your entertainment budget--the events and places you go for entertainment (movies, theme parks, museums, concerts, go karting, etc.) and entertainment subscriptions (Netflix, Sirius XM, online gaming, etc.)  Between the kids, your spouse, and yourself, you could blow a lot of money trying to entertain everyone.  Ask yourself if you or your kids need to go to the movies that often? Does each family member really have time to get your money's worth out of those subscriptions?  And are there better ways you could be spending your time, such as playing a board game or having movie night with the family, volunteering in your community, reading, walking the dog, etc?

And forget about shopping or going to the bookstore or electronics store 'just for something to do'.  That's just asking for trouble.

There are plenty of cheap or free events and attractions that will get you out of the house but won't bust your budget.  We love to go for bike rides, to the park or library, apple picking, and our city's zoo has free admission (just take your own food and drinks to those types of places, otherwise, you'll be spending $10/person on lunch.)  Eliminate or reduce the amount spent on entertainment, improve the quality of your time, and save the cash.

6) Just say no to fees!  (Banking Service Charges / ATM Fees / Overdraft Fees / Late Fees)  I sincerely hope that none of you give your business to a bank that charges you a fee to hold a checking account, use your debit card, for online bill paying, or requires you to hold a minimum balance.  Seems like before long we'll be paying a fee to use a teller at the bank instead of the ATM, or park in the parking lot.  Switch to a credit union-they seem to be more ethical and appreciative of their customers.  I'm in the process of plotting my bank break-up.  BofA will miss me.

If you need cash, try to plan ahead and get cash back using your debit card at the grocery store to save you a trip to the ATM.  Or drive the couple of minutes to your own bank.  You should not be so lazy that you end up paying a fee to use another bank's ATM.

Keep your records and check register organized, using a paper planner, online software (I personally use, your cell phone or Google calendar, whatever works for you, so you can track your balances, budget, and bill due dates.  If you're staying within your budget and keeping organized, overdraft and late fees should never happen.

Sometimes, though, mistakes happen.  You neglect to record a check, a bill gets lost in a stack of papers, or you forget to hit 'confirm' after scheduling an online bill payment (Yep, I did that one.)  Move on and try not to let it happen again.

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