We all love things, whether is a new gadget or splurging on dinner, we all tend to extend ourselves beyond what we can afford. Self-discipline can be hard when confronted with a decision, but I’ve found it easier to stay on track if the price of an item is converted into hours worked. How many hours would it take me to make this amount? Example, let’s say a $100 bill is the equivalent of 3 – 4 hours of work. This makes it easier to grasp and commit to buying or passing on the service or item.
The biggest offenders are the monthlies. Savings in these areas typically translate to thousands of dollars yearly. Another trick we use is convert monthly bills to yearly bills. Spending $100 per month for a service might not sound like a large amount, however looking at it as $100 x 12 mo. = $1200 per year is. What could you do with an extra $1200 in your pocket?
Make it a habit of checking all monthlies once or twice per year. Usually tie this “review” around holidays so it’s not forgotten. Christmas season or New Year are two easy choices, as typically time is spent at home with family and not much else to do. Switching services more than once or twice per year can be time consuming, limiting this review to once per year can not only save money it can also save time.
Here are a few that deserve a second look:
Cell Phone bill
These blood suckers can drain the monthly budget very quickly. Make it a habit of connect to WiFi whenever possible. This can lower your data consumption and could allow a switch to a lower package.
Look at every carrier. Yes, every carrier, from Cricket Wireless to Straight Talk and Virgin Wireless, leave no stone unturned. Trimming your phone bill could be a huge help to your monthly budget.
Seriously? Are these things still around? Let’s be real here bundling is a great deal, for the provider. Never found anyone utilizing these “bundles” to their fullest. We all work and live off of our smartphones and these devices are always with us. Even home alarm system now utilizes wireless service instead of hard lines, the cost usually is around $5 extra per month.
This is another that has to be closely watched. All providers know we are connected to our core, and thus try to squeeze us for all they can. Have you ever thought of how much you actually need? Don’t make the mistake of going with what the person on the phone is selling. What is needed is much much less. If you stream, as we do, a lot, you would be told a higher or top tier package is the way to go. It’s not. We have the smallest package 10 mbps. Everything is through the internet for us, including TV, so if all can be streamed with 10mbps you shouldn’t exceed 30 – 40 mbps on this service. Unless of course you are a 2% that is downloading and uploading the whole internet 24/7.
Streaming is our friend, despite what we’ve been told. Plenty of articles have been written, from providers or their affiliates, that skinny bundles cost consumers more. And while they are right, if you get every channel in a bundle a la carte, who in their right minds needs 150 channels when most time is spend on 10 channels. Majority of the time that we are watching TV is spent streaming Netflix, YouTube and other streaming services.
Love Netflix? We went in together with another member of our family for the upgrade package and stream on 4 devices. Still cheaper than each of us having individual accounts.
DirecTV NOW, was a new addition, after cutting Sling TV, we got in right when it launched and locked in the $60 package for $35, month to month. In addition, I splurged on paying the first 3 months to get a free Apple TV. Totally worth it. Also streamed by two families and the cost split.
Figure out what services you can combine with a member of your family, or get one group to pay for one services and the other for another. Getting two services for the price of one.
Both of these services are month to month with no contracts. These are also re-visited twice per year. Are these being used enough to where is worth continuing the service?
Gas, Electric and other utility Bills
Depending on your financial situation most cities provide credits to low income individuals. The first step is checking if you qualify. Most have simple application and if you qualify reaping the benefit of a few hundred per year could help the budget. Tackle every utility bill individually.
Going to the store can wreck the budget, especially if you’re hungry. Try having a shopping list before walking in the store and sticking to it. Impulse buys are the biggest offenders. For bulk stores, Costco, Sams Club etc., finding a shopping buddy would help a lot, especially if you have a small family and end up tossing food away. These memberships are worth the cost if used properly. We created a list that both our family and our shopping buddies eat on a weekly basis. These items are the bulk of our purchases and everything is split in half, including the bill.
Gasoline at these places are also lower. In order to take advantage of these prices you need a Costco membership, unless you have a gift card. Seeing as only one membership would be split, getting a second card that the other family can have for gas or buying a gift card would provide both parties access to these services. In our areas these places are priced 20 – 30 cents cheaper per gallon.
Another way to stick to the budget is limiting going out. Let’s be real saying never, never works. Treat these event as rewords for keeping to your budget or by accomplishing a weakly goal. Meal prepping all week? You’ve earned a day out. Don’t go crazy by blowing the budget but dinner and a movie is a great reward. You will never be able to keep to a budget if there is no fun.
A few thoughts
Bank fees are a thing of the past, find a different institution, or go to a 100% online banking solution. Fees add up and I’m sure these saved fees would be better used on fun.
Magazine and newspaper subscriptions. Slice all these out and check with your local library. Most libraries provide access to a wide variety of magazines and newspaper online and via apps. These are free with your local library login. I’m a big fan of the Economist and guess what it’s available for free via my local library login.
Vanity plates, windows tents, rims and other accessories. Two words “Money Waiting”. Unless you’ve reached the Fat Nest Stage (Financial Independence) these are not in your best interest.
Budgeting is not a sexy, think of it as money management and have some fun. Make sure to add a few hundred per month to your entertainment fund. The budget is important but so is your happiness. Budgeting should help you accomplish more of what you want to do not eliminate these wonderful experiences.
Do you know of other big offenders that were not highlighted above? Join the conversation below and let us know what we’ve missed.