November 7, 2012
by David Bakke
David Bakke is a writer for Money Crashers Personal Finance.  He writes about various money hacks to save money and make smart shopping decisions.

Today's economic climate makes old-fashioned penny pinching all the more necessary. And no one need be shy about it, as everyone's looking to save some green. If you're new to

the concept but ready to jump aboard, know that it's easier than you think.

Here are a few tips to impact the most common of your monthly bills:


1. Pay Less for Utilities
With winter around the corner, the utility bill is a great place to look for cost cuts by winterizing your home. First, consider adjusting the thermostat. Lowering it by just three degrees can reduce your bill as much as 20%. As the weather begins to cool off, make sure you change the direction of your ceiling fans to "winter" rotation - clockwise versus counterclockwise in warm weather.

Additionally, tackle some easy DIY projects to conserve your energy output. Do a quick leak-check around your house; grab a lighter and hold it up to door frames and windows on a windy day. If you have any leaks or drafts, seal them up. Take a look at your attic insulation. If the two-by-fours are peeking through, it may be time for an upgrade. This may cost more than the other ideas, but in the end may be worth the expense. Beyond that, install low-flow shower heads and toilets, insulate your water heater, and wash clothes in cold water. A little elbow grease goes a long way in dollars and cents on your energy bill.

2. Bundle Your Other Services
With most cable companies now offering other services, such as Internet and cell phone, you can definitely save by obtaining all these services through the same company. Do some research online, and when you call in, ask the rep if the price advertised online is the lowest they'll go. Believe it or not, in many cases you can get an even better deal. Though it may seem extreme, many people are ditching cable TV altogether - and doing just fine, thank you.

3. Save on Groceries
If you're not already doing this, it's a goldmine waiting in the wings. Clipping coupons counts. Depending on how much time you're willing to invest, you can reduce your grocery bill by as much as 80% with extreme couponing strategies . On an average monthly family expenditure of $700, you could save close to $7,000 annually. That's not pocket change. Consider buying your produce at local farmers' markets - or better yet, growing your own with a home vegetable garden. It's easier than you realize, teaches your kids some important culinary lessons, and will cut your costs considerably.

4. Drop Home Telephone Service
If you live in an area with a solid Internet connection or have a solid cell phone plan, you should ponder whether to eliminate your home telephone service. It's a big move, to be sure, but you likely have tremendous overlap currently - as in, you're probably paying for nationwide long distance on both home and cell. Consider a service that lets you make calls via the Internet. This can cost around $40 for the device, plus a yearly subscription of $40. The quality is surprisingly good, as are the long-term savings.

5. Reduce Personal Purchases
Take a look at what you spend - not necessarily on the big things but rather the small everyday purchases that tend to add up. Track your costs for one month, then find ways to minimize or eliminate where you can. And don't be afraid to put yourself on an austerity budget, using a service such as Mint to help you get control.
A case in point is convenience stores: Virtually everything you can get there besides gas can either be eliminated or purchased elsewhere cheaper. Also, ask yourself one thing before you pull money out to buy anything - do I really need this? Often, you'll find the answer is no.

Final Thoughts
Once you've shaved hundreds from your monthly budget, have a plan for how to spend the money. There's no sense in going through all of this if you're just going to spend it needlessly. Pay down your credit card debt so you're no longer paying interest, start or beef up your emergency fund, bump up your Thrift Savings Plan or 401k contributions, and start a Roth IRA or a 529 college savings program. As long as you have a strategy in place, you'll be sure to get the most out of the extra income.

What other ways can you think of to reduce your monthly bills?  Share with us on

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