By Ryan Guina
When it comes to our personal finances, many of us accept the status quo. I’ve been guilty as charged. It wasn’t until my wife and I started challenging our assumptions that we started making headway with our savings.
Here are five money saving tips to help you challenge the status quo.
These may not all apply to your situation, but applying these principles to other items in your budget can help you make important changes to your budget.
Get an annual insurance quote. I’m happy with my insurance company. I’ve been using them for years. And that is the problem – I usually just let my policy renew without shopping around for rate quotes. I have made it a personal mission to get a new rate quote once a year. To do this, I set up an annual calendar reminder on my computer. Then I spend an hour getting quotes on my home and car insurance policies. So far, my insurance provider has been competitive. But it can also be easy to save a couple of hundred dollars per year by changing insurance providers. You might also be able to save by dropping full coverage for liability only, if it no longer makes sense to have full coverage.
Reevaluate cable TV. Several years ago I called my cable company and asked them to lower my rates. I got them to lower my rate by $15 a month for a two-year contract. That 15-minute phone call saved me $360. How did I do it? I called and asked for their retention department and told them about a competitor’s offer. They quickly agreed to lower my rates.
However, when at the end of our contract, my wife and I took things a step further. We were in the process of moving to a new state and decided we could do without a TV for a few months. So we sold our TVs and canceled cable. We eventually bought a new TV, but we didn’t get a cable TV plan. Over ten years later, we don’t miss cable TV. We simply get by with a digital antenna, streaming video, and an occasional movie from the library. This saves us hundreds of dollars each year for something we don’t miss.
Do you need a landline? My wife and I primarily use our cell phones for communication with family and friends. We had gone without a landline for almost five years before I finally installed one for my business. I use a VoIP service to make calls via the computer, which costs less than $10 per month. We still make our personal calls on our cell phones.
To bundle or not to bundle – that is the question. Internet and cable companies offer discounts if you bundle their services. These service packages offer great savings if you need these services, but as I mentioned above, my wife and I don’t need, or use them. It is cheaper for us to buy our Internet and phone service a la carte, and avoid paying for cable TV that we wouldn’t watch.
Are you paying too much for your cell phone? While many people use their cell phones as their primary means of communication, some people only use them for emergencies. If you fall into this category, then review your cell phone usage to see if you are getting your money’s worth, or if you are overpaying for the service you use. Look at cutting things like cell phone insurance, text message packages, the number of minutes or data on your plan, or other features you don’t use. In many cases, some people are better off with a pay as you go cell phone plan. The phones for these plans have come a long way since thy initially entered the market, and many pay as you go plans feature top of the line smart phones. I also recommend looking into discounted cell phone plans, something most companies offer.
Have you noticed the common denominator here? All of these topics are recurring monthly expenses. One of the quickest ways you can fix your budget is to reduce how much you spend each month. Don’t worry if none of these things apply to you. Just apply these principles to the areas in your budget where you are spending the most money each month and challenge your assumptions that you need them. Look at television and magazine subscriptions, clubs and memberships, and other recurring expenses. Shop around and look for better deals, and don’t be afraid to cancel a membership if you aren’t getting enough value.
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Ryan Guina is a military veteran and writer. He is the founder and editor of the personal finance sites CashMoneyLife and TheMilitaryWallet.