Top Ways to Save Money on Your Monthly Bills
We all go through the monthly ritual of paying our bills. Whether it’s food and grocery expenses, to essential utilities like water, energy and internet, it’s nearly impossible to survive the modern lifestyle without having to availing, and ultimately, paying for these expenses.
Still, bills can be crippling and eat a good portion of your income. You may not know it, but you’re probably paying more bills than you should. Fortunately, you don’t have to live with this situation forever. You can bring down monthly bills by several hundred dollars, thereby giving you the much needed breathing room in your budget. By doing your due diligence, comparison shopping and studying all your options, you can free up some money by lowering the cost of the following bills.
How to Save on Your Monthly Bills
We need electricity to run the house, but are you consuming energy that you don’t necessarily use. There are several savvy ways to bring down the cost of energy, and a change in some habits is the best first steps you can take. Start with switching off lights when not in use. And to further bring down your bill, opt for LED bulbs instead of the incandescent ones. LED bulbs have gone down in price throughout the years, and while still more expensive than older generation of bulbs, they consume less energy and have longer lifespan.
Next, you need to make sure that your home is adequately sealed. Leakages allow air from the outside to enter your home, and air from the inside to go outside. This causes your heating and cooling units to work on the double, therefore causing it to consume more energy.
It is also important to keep your HVAC unit in mint running condition by ensuring that they’re regularly serviced and maintained. Dirty air filters also cause the unit to work more than it should. Clean out the filters every season, and perform routine maintenance checks and repairs if needed. Also, if your air conditioning unit is exposed to the sun, consider planting shrubs or trees to guard it from sunlight. By doing so, you may save as much as $65 each year.
Get into the habit of turning off appliances when not in use. Even a TV on standby continues to use some power. Better yet, plug your appliances into a power strip then turn the strip off when you’re going to bed or leaving the house. That way, all of the appliances attached on that strip are guaranteed to be turned off when not in use.
If you’re still using the old-fashioned thermostat, it’s about time you get yourself the new, programmable version. This device allows you to pre-set a temperature on desired hours. Additionally, you can connect the thermostat to your smartphone device so you can virtually turn it off if you forget after leaving your home. You can save a few more bucks by setting the temperature 10 degrees lesser at night and just bundle up with thick and cozy blanket. During summer, wash your dirty clothes in cold water and hang to dry, instead of using the dryer.
Mortgage and Housing
Housing is one of the major monthly expenses that many people find draining to their budget. According to the 2018 Home Affordability Report by Unison, you need to have an annual income of $418, 482 to afford housing in expensive areas like New York City. Even in less expensive areas Portland, you need to earn $107, 692 each year to afford a decent place. Suffice to say, housing, if not planned and prepared well for, can lead to financial disaster.
The first step to actually afford housing for the long term is to make sure your home doesn’t make you house poor. And with that said, pick a mortgage amount that doesn’t consume more than 30% of your take-home pay.
Find a home that’s well within your budget and kind of lifestyle. It may make sense to opt for a smaller home at first, then upgrade when it fits your financial and personal circumstances. You want to build as much equity in your home.
In case you purchased a much larger home than you need, you can downsize or move to a less expensive area. This should help bring down your housing costs significantly. Also, inspect how much you pay in property taxes. You can move to a neighborhood with much lower property taxes, and then save the difference in your pocket.
Also try to see if refinancing your mortgage is beneficial for your situation in most, if not all aspects. Refinancing can lower the cost of your mortgage by opting for another loan with lower interest. It may not be an option for everybody, but if you do some research and compare rates, you’ll most likely find a great refinancing deal.
If you have a spare room or clean basement, get a tenant to help save money for mortgage. Even sharing a rental apartment with a friend helps make it easier on your housing budget.
Finally, you can try to speed up paying the mortgage by a few years if you strive to pay extra each month. Instead of paying mortgage once a month, do it bi-weekly. It also helps to automate the payment so that you never miss your due date.
According to CreditDonkey, American households pay an average of $70 for their water consumption every month. It’s certainly not as huge as your mortgage payments, but you can still further bring this expense down through a number of ways.
First, make sure to turn off the tap when you’re shaving or brushing your teeth. Letting the water run from the faucet unused is a complete waste of resource and money. For instance, a family of four who let the faucet on while brushing every single time is wasting as much as 600 gallons of water every year. Save water by using a cup instead. The same goes when scraping off leftover food from plates before they go to the dishwasher. Remove the leftovers by putting some water in the sink or basin, rather than using running tap water.
Also, practice shorter showers and baths. You may engage in a luxurious bath every once in a while, but cutting your shower time shorter on a daily basis results in a significant reduction on your water bill. Not to mention, it helps lessen your electric bill as well.
On that showering note, consider replacing your old shower head with a low-flow one. A low-flow showerhead uses one to two gallons per minute of water than the regular one but still gives you both high and low pressures when desired.
Only do full dishes and laundry on your machine. Both the washing machine and dishwasher are designed to handle loads to a certain capacity. If you opt to wash clothes or dishes that are less than this capacity, you’re wasting both water and energy, and also making the appliance less efficient.
Invest on a faucet aerator. If your tap is relatively older, consider getting a faucet aerator. It installs at the bottom of your faucet which helps to lessen water flow while maintaining the desired pressure. The faucet aerator is a simple and inexpensive switch that will help you reduce unnecessary water consumption over time.
Finally, check for leaks. Leakages are like nasty phantom water eaters that cause your water bill to balloon. The National Sanitation Foundation says that a leaky toilet is dumping as much as 500 gallons of water on a daily basis. Do routinely check out for leaks and address them as soon as you can.
In between updating family and friends over social media, sending and receiving work-related information over email and streaming your favorite show over Netflix, it’s undeniable that having a good and reliable internet connection at home is an important, often non-negotiable expense. But you don’t need to pay an inflated bill just to enjoy this service. There are several ways to enjoy a good connection but a respectable amount.
First, consider sharing the bill. If you live in an apartment with a few another individuals, consider splitting the bill equally among yourselves. This helps to lighten the cost of the bill on all of you. Basically, it’s win-win for everyone.
Second, assess your speed needs. Depending on how heavily you use the internet, you may need slower or faster speed than you currently have. If you need to the internet for basic communication and researching, you probably don’t need the highest speed (which in turn is also the most expensive) your ISP provides.
Next, consider cutting the cord. Most companies are geared towards selling their internet-cable bundle, telling you that you’d save more money than if you opt for a standalone service. But if you’re not that much of a couch potato or if you’re happy to stream your favorite shows over the web, the cable component is a waste of money.
You can also take advantage of promos and discounts from other ISPs. Most of these promos run for a couple of months to a year. It’s an excellent opportunity to test out competing ISPs but at a lower price. If you’re happy, you can keep the deal and negotiate with the provider. Most of them are happy to give your requests as long as their reasonable and realistic, just to keep your business.
The cellular phone has become one of our essentials. Your huge phone bills probably don’t surprise you anymore, but if you look at other cheaper alternatives, you’ll realize that you can actually get away with a phone plan that costs way lesser.
To do this, you must first assess your calls, texts and data usage. If you’re using lesser than what your plan provides, it’s time to jump on a less expensive but more suitable one for you. If you’re shopping for a new phone or package in another provider, you must still keep usage in mind.
Next, consider using the free internet-based apps instead of your phone. For instance, you can save some money on your data or calls if you opt to use Skype or similar applications instead.
Stick with your old phone if it works fine for you. Samsung and Apple are releasing a new model every year. It doesn’t mean that you go get one for yourself when the older version works perfectly fine and suits your needs. Getting the latest model of the smartphone can easily inflate your bill by $30-$40, so think about this before you sign up.
You’ll also find that getting a family plan instead of an individual one is cheaper. If you can get three or more people into the plan, you also have that number of people to split the bill with.
Also, ditch the insurance if you feel like you don’t really need it. Insurance is well-meaning for expensive and valuable phones, but if you think your phone model doesn’t need the insurance, then ditch it. You’ll save several dollars off your bill each year just by cutting ties with it.
If you don’t use as many calls, texts, and data or if you rely heavily on the internet for most of your correspondences, consider switching to prepaid plans. These are pay-as-you-go plans that allow you more control over the use of the phone and your budget.
A car is no longer a luxury. For most of us, owning a car has become a necessity. Still, some people unknowingly pay for cars and car-related expenses that are higher than they should. If you’re looking to bring down the cost relative to owning a car, you must first and foremost, keep it in top condition. Sure, cars will sustains wear and tear over the course of time, but you can drastically cut back on unexpected repair costs if you follow your car’s maintenance schedule. You’ll get the opportunity to spot issues, before they become way too expensive.
If you’re in the market for a new car, it is important to first know what you want and how much you can afford. When you get to the dealership, it can be too easy to get swayed by the salesman’s pitches, ending you up with a car you don’t like and way over your budget. Do your due diligence beforehand and stick to a model and price that’s most suitable for you.
It’s also important to decide wisely between getting a brand new car or a nice second-hand car. Brand new cars will certainly cost you more than old ones, so it’s important to have the intention of keeping the brand new car for at least five years before trading or selling it. A second-hand car can be a great option if you’re looking to switch cars in a few years, and don’t want to deal with the high sticker price that a brand new car carries.
Next, do take note that your manner of driving can make a profound impact on your car-related costs. Being a reckless driver put you in a vulnerable position of getting involved in accidents. Car accidents also increase your auto loan premiums. Additionally, you’ll consume double the amount of fuel if you drive too fast, especially on the highway.
Give your car a break by engaging into carpools. Arrange carpools with family and friends to reduce the amount of gas that you consume, and at the same time, extend the life of your car. It is also best to plan your errands within the day so that you don’t need to go back and forth and waste time and fuel in the process.
Now, is your car costing you too much? It is not too late to trade-in. You may have to settle for a less luxurious car, but this decision might just be what your budget needs.
Here’s the thing about insurance. You know you need it, but you never wish to use it. You probably have a couple of insurance policies at the moment and this is a great time to go look and determine whether you’re paying just about right for their coverage.
The most important element in getting a good deal on insurance is your credit score. Keeping and maintaining a healthy credit score is likely to land you insurance policies with better coverage and lower rates. If your score has improved the past several months, let your insurer know and check whether they can adjust your rates.
Even if you’re already comfortable with your insurance company, feel free to shop around for other insurance policies every year. Insurance companies have various ways of determining their premiums, and one policy could be a great fit to you over the other. As your circumstances change, do check and shop for the most suitable insurance policy.
Also, increasing your deductibles is a savvy way to save more money each month from insurance. This lessens the amount that the insurer offers you, but at the same time, it lowers your monthly premiums. This is a highly recommended option if you have a well-padded emergency fund. If your emergency fund leaves so much to be desired for, consider building it up and then increasing your deductible once the fund is solid and well-established.
Another great way to save more money from insurance is to get different policies and/or insure more people with one company. Insurers are keener to provide discounts to customers who get their home, life and auto insurance all at once from them, and this is one you should take advantage of. Of course, you need to be happy and satisfied with this insurer before deciding to get all the other policies from under one company.
The price of basic commodities like food is seemingly always on a rise, and it’s so easy to leave a grocery store financially wiped-out. While food and groceries can be heavy on the budget, you can make it less draining by following these few simple steps.
First, make sure that you are well-fed before hitting the stores. A hungry stomach can mess up your decisions while walking around the aisle and you could end up with items that you don’t need and well beyond your budget.
It is also best to create a list and stick to it. Check out your pantry as you make the list to ensure you only list down what’s missing and avoid buying items that you already have. Once you reach the grocery, bring out the list and get into the business.
Using coupons is also an excellent way to save serious money at the grocery. Thankfully, you don’t have to clip and file coupons anymore. You can go straight to websites like www.coupons.com, download the coupons that you think you will need and then present it at the counter. Also, you’ll enjoy more savings if you use coupons in tandem with discounts and promos.
Go generic if you can. Brand name products are expensive because they have well, a brand, but generic items work just as well. Several generic products, from kitchen tissue, cereal, sugar to cleaning detergents work just as well, but at a much cheaper price.
It is also essential to plan your meals ahead. Try to cook meals using in-season produce because they tend to cost less. If you’re buying food in bulk, like meat, make sure to have a menu to consult with. You want to buy the appropriate ingredients and not spend on items that you will just stay in your pantry, unused.
It is hard to get away from expenses like energy, water, internet, food, and car among others because we use them on a daily basis. Imagine how challenging our lives would be without them. But it also doesn’t mean that we should settle with their costs when there are several creative ways to bring their prices down. Sometimes, all it takes is some leg work, research, price comparison and the willingness to make the switch, and the difference will manifest with how much you were able to save.
Cary Silverman is a consummate entrepreneur having sold multiple companies during his 20 years of business experience in the financial industry, but for him, it isn’t about the money. His success is rooted in his passion to focus on doing something better today than it was done yesterday. These days, he’s the CEO of Waldo General, Inc. that oversees the operation of King of Kash.