Fact: Many of us spend more than we should on things like insurance, cable, telephone service, and utilities.
Fact: Many of us have not tried to lower these monthly bills in the last year, if ever.
Fact: Many of us could save hundreds of dollars a month by taking a few simple steps.
The realization that these facts are true led me to write 99 Painless Ways to Save Serious Money. This book has tons of information, links, tips, and resources on how to reduce the cost of everything from cable to gas, health insurance to cell phone service, and online shopping to credit card debt.
In a moment, we’ll look at how you can get a copy of the book (for free), but first, we need to talk about how to cut your monthly expenses. It really is a simple 3-step process to bring “shock and awe” to your monthly bills.
Here are the three steps:
- Monthly Bills: Evaluate each monthly bill (e.g., phone, insurance, cable, credit cards) and ask three questions:
- Can you get rid of this service?
- Can you reduce the expense?
- Can you get the service for less from another provider?
- Utilities: Reduce the cost of electricity and natural gas by making simple, inexpensive changes to your home.
- Shop Smarter: Use the power of the Internet to get everything from vacations to books for less.
Let’s take a look at each of these steps.
Step 1: Evaluate your monthly bills
First, write down each of your monthly bills. Include bills that you pay every six or twelve months, too, like life and auto insurance.
Next to each bill, write down how much you pay each month. If the expense varies from month-to-month, just guess at an average for now. Note: Don’t include utilities. We’ll deal with these in the next step.
For many of us, monthly bills include the following:
- Telephone service
- Cable or other TV services
- Cell phone service
- Internet service
- Auto insurance
- Life insurance
- Homeowner’s insurance
- Health insurance (even if provided through your employer)
- Home equity line of credit
- Credit cards
- Credit monitoring
- Club/gym memberships
- Magazine subscriptions
- Car loan payments
- School loans
- Other subscription services (Audible, Spotify, etc.)
Next, go down the list one at a time and ask these three questions:
- Can I eliminate this expense completely?
- Can I reduce this expense?
- Can I get the product or service from another provider for less?
If you think creatively, you can find ways to lower these monthly costs.
An Example: Cable Services
Take cable service for example. First, can you get rid of cable completely? Today, free digital HD TV is an option.
What if you don’t want to get rid of cable? Can you lower the cost by reducing the number of channels you receive? Or could you switch to Netflix for cheaper movies, cutting those channels out of your package?
Even if you can’t think of a way to lower the expense immediately, call the company to ask how you can lower your bill. You’d be surprised what companies will do to keep customers.
What if the company won’t lower your bill? Shop around for a new provider! Often times, satellite service like DirecTV is cheaper than cable.
This is where my book, 99 Painless Ways to Save Serious Money can help. I’ve listed tons of ideas and resources on how to attack just about every monthly bill out there.
As you go down your list of monthly bills, keep track of how much money you save. It may be only $5, $10, or $20 per item, but it can add up to a significant sum. And reducing these costs generally doesn’t require any sacrifice.
Once you’ve gone through every monthly bill and asked the three questions, it’s time to move on to utilities.
Step 2: Utilities
Each year, utilities consume a larger and larger portion of our monthly budget. Energy Star estimates that the average family spends about $2,200 a year on utilities. For many, it’s a lot more.
If we can shave even $50 off our monthly bill, we pocket $600 a year without sacrificing our standard of living. And we do our part to conserve natural resources and the environment!
What’s great about this step is that you’ve got some simple, inexpensive options to conserve energy. I won’t go through all of them here (get the book!), but here are a few ideas:
- Conduct an energy audit of your home: It’s easy to do and will show you where your home is leaking money.
- Install a programmable thermostat: They are relatively inexpensive and easy to install. According to Energy Star, a programmable thermostat can save 20% off your heating and cooling bills.
- Replace incandescent bulbs with CFLs: They last longer, which means you’ll replace bulbs less often. And they consume a lot less energy.
- Buy Energy Star products: This may be obvious to some, but Energy Star products consume less energy than other models. When shopping for everything from a refrigerator to a dehumidifier, look for the Energy Star label.
- Consider tax breaks: Many states offer significant tax breaks for energy-saving home improvements.
These are just some of the ideas you’ll find in 99 Painless Ways. With a little effort and relatively small investment, you can bring down your energy costs.
Step 3: Shop Smarter
For example, did you know that. . .
- certain car tires can increase gas mileage?
- finding the cheapest gasoline in your area is a snap with apps?
- you can print grocery coupons off the internet before you go to the store?
- if you don’t have prescription drug insurance, one website can help you get significant discounts?
- there is free software available for just about everything you would need to do on your computer?
I could go on, but you get the idea. And that brings us back to 99 Painless Ways to Save Serious Money. In the book you’ll find tips and resources to save money without sacrificing your lifestyle. This is not a book about eating out less or spending less on clothes. 99 Painless Ways is instead focused on the three steps described above.
The book is free for those who subscribe to the weekly Dough Roller Newsletter. I hope it — and this article — helps you bring some “shock and awe” to your monthly bills.