Saving money isn’t easy. Most people’s minds go directly to pinching pennies – needing to eat out less, give up buying coffee, or buying used instead of new. While these lifestyle changes can be really helpful, what if you investing a few hours and making a few small changes could have a big impact on your budget and give your savings a large boost?
A few summers ago, my husband and I were searching for more money to save, so we began looking for a few ways to tame our bloated budget. One of the most impactful things we did was shop our monthly expenses. In one afternoon we took a look at all of those monthly expenses we took for granted like our utility, cell phone, and TV bills. We had always assumed these expenses were just a given in our budget – there was nothing we could do to change them. Boy were we wrong! In one afternoon, we were able to save over $70 per month through research and reaching out to various vendors.
We got rid of our home phone and changed our cell phone provider. We called our TV provider to see if there were any special promotions we could take advantage of. We were able to downgrade our plan and take advantage of a discount. These small changes haven’t had much of an impact on our daily life, but it’s given our budget a lot more flexibility and our savings a big boost. We were able to eliminate things that we were paying for but not using. Over the course of a year, those savings added up to nearly $1,000 as a result of just one afternoon of online research, phone calls, and live chats with vendors. Best of all, it’s the gift that keeps on giving! We continue to have an extra $70/month available for our savings goals. This one-time check-in has allowed us to reap benefits every month since.
Since it’s been a few years, it’s about time for my husband and I to take a look at our monthly expenses again. Here are some things we will be investigating:
· TV/Streaming Services: This is a big area of budget bloat for my husband and I. In the last few years, we’ve been slowly transitioning from cable to streaming services. However, at the moment, we are paying for both when we mainly just use streaming services. I hate to think about how much of our budget is eaten up by these expenses.
Tip: Take a few weeks to inventory what you are actually watching. Check-in with your TV and streaming services – are you paying for more than you need? Is there a smaller package or could you get rid of either service all together? Are you paying for any services (like HBO for Game of Thrones – not that I would know anything about that :) ) that you only use for a few weeks a year?
· Internet: In many cities you have a variety of options for internet providers, my husband and I have limited choices. If you have options, survey them. Make sure you are signed up for the plan you really need. When I was living alone, I purchased the most basic DSL internet and it worked great for my needs. Now, my husband likes to play computer games and we both like to stream movies and music, so we need a little more bandwidth.
Tip: Wondering how much speed you really need and what providers are available in your area? Take a few minutes to answer these questions. Bonus tip: Been with one company for a long time? Ask for the loyalty department and let them know you’re considering switching. You might be surprised by the deals that become available to you.
· Utilities: If you rent, you likely don’t have much choice in what providers you use. But, if you own a house you might. In my area, there’s quite a variety of trash/recycling services available all with different pricing. Many electric companies offer budget billing that can help you keep your bill more steady throughout the year. I’ve also found that some companies will offer you rebates for using energy efficient appliances, heating/cooling systems, and even light bulbs.
Tip: Check out these Penny Hoarder tips for even more ideas on how to save money on your electric and water bills that go beyond just adjusting the temperature on your thermostat.
· Cell Phone: Over the last few years, I’ve seen my husband and I’s cell phone bill costs slowly begin to creep up. The cost of talk, text, and data plans can be exorbitant not to mention the cost of the phones themselves. One thing to consider is whether or not you can bundle services – we currently bundle our TV and cell phone bill which saves us a little money each month. Again, this is a good time to check in and make sure you are using everything your plan offers. It may also be a good time to shop around – there are certainly plenty of options out there.
Tip: Check out these NerdWallet tips for more ideas on how to save money on your cell phone bill.
· Subscription Services: Do you know how many subscriptions you’re really signed up for? You might be signed up for subscriptions to magazines, music streaming services, gyms, and more! Many of us are signed up for subscriptions we rarely use or even forget we have. In my situation, I was actually being charged twice for one of my subscriptions. It took me over a year to catch the issue because I was just being charged a small amount. These small monthly costs can really add up over time.
Tip: Take a look a look through your last bank statement and/or credit card bills - are you really using all of your subscription services? Are you being charged accurately for these services?
Need a little help renegotiating your bills or canceling those subscription services? Check out this Money Boss post to learn more about a service that can help.
Once you’ve renegotiated your bills and cut any unnecessary services the question is: what will you do with the money? It’s so easy to let it sit in your bank account – don’t let this hard-earned money evaporate. Put it toward an important savings goal!
What will you do with the money you save?