Ways to Save Money and Cut Costs This Year
Happy almost New Year 2013! Let’s talk saving money in 2012.
Cut the Fat — And I’m not talking food.
Telephone Service: If you still have a land line and want to keep it, at least analyze your bill. With a quick call to the phone company, I saved just under $20.00 a month by cutting extras (call waiting, three party calling). I never used the 3-party calling, and since I use my mobile phone far more than the land line these days, the call waiting is no longer important. For some, the land line itself can be fat … so consider disconnecting and save the full bill amount every month. Ask about cutting out the long distance plan — especially if you have unlimited long distance on your mobile phone and will use that instead. Finally, when the phone company sends you a notice that your plan period is ending and will be renewed unless you call to discuss your needs and perhaps save money, don’t ignore the letter. Special promotions may be expiring, and unless you activate new ones, you may pay more than you expect. Here’s a warning — choose a time when you can devote at least a half an hour to analyze your service and explore changes. You’ll first have to get through the automation maze before you get to a real person.
Mobile/Cell Telephone Service — consider a no-contract plan. More to come on this later…. For now, if you’re stuck with a contract, look into other plans and consider whether the fee you agreed to pay for breaking the contact earlymight be less expensive than sticking with it and the expensive monthly service. If you’re cancellation fee is $200.00, and you’re currently paying $70.00 ($840./year) for monthly phone service but would be happy with a $30.00 a month plan with another service ($360./year), you would actually save $280.00 over the course of a year if you break the contract and cancel early. Don’t forget to add in any money you’ll spend on a new phone when you switch. That amount comes right off the top of your potential savings. If changing providers is not for you, at least call in to see how well your particular plan fits your usage. Yesterday, I saved $10 a month by making a small change to my plan. Plans change all the time, so it’s highly likely there’s a cheaper one that’s a better fit. And finally, do you need to insure your telephone? I’m careful with my cell phone, so gambled saving the $7 monthly charge for insurance with its $99 deductible. The truth is, if replacing your cell phone would be an insurmountable expense, you shouldn’t be using such an expensive one.
Memberships: How many do you really need? In the last thirty days, I’ve nixed three memberships and saved close to $300.00. Time will tell if these are missed, but one thing’s for sure: the opportunity to renew or rejoin will likely be there if you decide you need it. Do you use that gym membership enough to warrant the cost? Free exercise is as easy as a walk around the block, or a San Diego hike.
Television: The choices can both underwhelm and overwhelm all at once. Consider whether you need the premium or subscription channels. You might also limit your orders of pay-for movies. Or — gasp — consider cutting out TV all together. For many of us, turning on the tube has become an expensive habit that takes time away from more productive activities and family time. Not everybody will want to go this far, but tuning out is something to consider. If you’re paying $60.00 a month for cable TV, you would save $720.00 a year. If you’re paying more than that, do the math. Is it worth the money? Only you can decide.
Organization Saves You Money
Make a New Year’s Resolution to do things on time. Utilities, finance agreements, and credit cards charge $25. to $30. for a payment that arrives late. In the long term, late payments can lower your credit score, which means you’re likely to have a higher interest rate on things you finance in the future. Do you check out books from the library then return them late? Most libraries allow you to log into their online site and extend your borrow period. Mark your calendar, and extend or return before the deadline. I used to think organization cramped my style, then I realized how much it costs! A little organization can save you BIG money. Make going through the mail and organizing your bills a priority. Your bank account will thank you.
Save Money When Purchasing Big Ticket Items, including Travel –
Make a trade, more commonly known as trade-off budgeting, can help you get the things you want and/or need without breaking the bank. In our society we’re used to instant gratification, but any parent knows that it pays to teach your children patience, discipline, and that the whole world doesn’t revolve around them. As adults, we can model this behavior for our children as well as relearn or continue disciplining ourselves by saving up to pay cash for more expensive items. Trade-off budgeting is a sensible way to do this. Would you give up your expensive coffee each morning if it meant that after several months you could purchase a large item outright? When you sit down and add up how much a relatively small daily expense adds up over a few months’ time, you may be surprised–and willing to change your habits. What can YOU trade for something else in your budget?
Consider “same as cash” offers on big-ticket items. If you can’t save your money and pay cash, then wait for same as cash offers. These sorts of specials and sales allow you to pay the item off over a specific time period, and as long as you pay within that time frame, you pay zero interest. Once you know the terms, divide the final price including an taxes and delivery charges into monthly increments you can pay within the time offer’s time frame. Then pay it off before the deadline. If you don’t, you’ll pay the accrued interest on the entire amount of the purchase (not just the part you haven’t paid off yet). Check the offer’s terms for your interest amount — these sorts of offers often have a high interest rate (often much higher than your regular credit card). A 2011 purchase I paid off over 11 months to beat the 12-months-same-as-cash offer would have charged me more than $300.00 in interest (but I beat it!–yay).
For travel, find special promotions at hotels and on air fare. Also, consider saving money for your trip so you don’t go in debt to travel.
Save Money on Insurance–
Health insurance is high no matter what, but if you seldom go to the doctor and nurture your health, consider gambling on a higher-deductible plan that saves you money on a monthly basis. Consider carefully … some variables include the amount you’ll pay for any doctor visits and whether your prescription medications will be covered. Currently, you can also choose a plan that doesn’t cover maternity costs to save money if you don’t need the coverage. This may be changing in the near future so that all policies will cover maternity (no choice means higher costs for all).
You can also cut costs by analyzing your car policies and considering changes. “Comprehensive” coverage costs much more money than what’s required by law. If you need to save dollars, weigh the risks against the savings. If you’re financing a vehicle, you’ll be required to keep full coverage, but if your car is paid off, you can save hundreds per year by reducing your coverages. Do your research and weigh what’s best for you. You might opt to keep “uninsured motorists” coverage, for instance, which is not required by law on a vehicle you own outright, but protects you if a driver who hits you has no insurance.
Multi-policy discounts can also save you money. Look into moving your car and homeowner’s insurance policies under one roof, and receive a discount for doing so.
Finally, don’t assume anything. I recently compared two car insurance companies and discovered the one I thought would be cheaper was actually several hundred dollars more expensive. Television commercials can’t always be trusted! Just because they say they’re the low price leader doesn’t mean that for your situation the company is the least expensive.
Other Insurance could also be eating into your budget. If you skipped over the portion on cell phone service above, look back. There’s a bit on cell phone insurance that could save you some money. Also, think twice about extra insurance on electronics and other items. Seems everything from coffee pots to hairdryers come with optional insurance plans sold at checkout these days. Do you really need to hassle them on every item? Mark up is high, and for some items, just not worth the cost.
Save Money on Food
Cut Costs for Groceries: Shop the sales, and plan your meals around them. When items are on special, buy more and freeze. Take a moment to look at the sales paper stacked near the supermarket door as you go in. A few extra minutes can save you precious dollars. Use coupons, and pay with cash. Set a goal of what you’re willing to spend while at the supermarket, then stick to it. I usually assign myself a range, so that if I come across an unexpected special, I can buy more and still be within my spending range. Take a small calculator or roughly add up purchases in your head as you shop. Using this techniques makes me examine food choices more carefully. Don’t use your credit card for groceries either. According to recent research reported on in the June 2011 issue of The Journal of Consumer Research, using a credit card increases impulse buys — particularly unhealthy choices that add empty calories that bulge your credit card balance, and your waist!
Eating Out: It seems almost unbelievable, but latest U.S. Census Bureau stats show that 42% of American’s income is spent on eating out. My first tip is to make a decision to eat out less. You’ll know what you’re eating, have control over costs and the menu, and may lose weight and be healthier too. Take your lunch to work or school rather than eat out, and take a break from habitual fast food or dining out after outings such as church or a movie. If and when you do decide to go out, here are tips to save money at restaurants –
Plan ahead for restaurant coupons and eating out discounts. Buy restaurant savings certificates at Restaurant.comfor instance for huge savings. Subscribe to emails from your favorite restaurants (which often offer discount coupons and specials to subscribers). Check out these tips to save money while eating out from November, 2011 as well. If you’re not already a subscriber, sign up for email/RSS feed so you won’t miss San Diego on the Cheap’s posts with direct links to restaurant coupons and specials from restaurants including Papa John’s Pizza, Mimi’s Cafe, Denny’s and more (see the signup area on the right). San Diego on the Cheap helps you to never pay full price while eating out. That’s why I also recommend getting the Entertainment Savings Book.
Nix the Filter and Cut down on Bottled Water
Tired of replacing those expensive faucet filters? Only you can decide if our tap water supply is good enough for you, but we’ve decided to forego the filters for awhile, and pocket the money saved. For our family, this was costing more than $20 a month, and the tap water isn’t bad? Check with your local water supplier for stats on how safe the water is, and you may decide to nix the filters, too. I’m also using far less bottled water. Filling and refilling a water bottle isn’t all that time consuming or difficult, and now that we’re used to the taste from the tap, the better taste of bottled water may have been all in our heads!
What tips do YOU have to save money and cut costs this year? I’d love to hear your comments.
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