With the holidays right around the corner, it makes sense to take a look at our budgets for some inefficiencies where we can save some money every month. You’re not going to be able to avoid all of the normal expenses that come with the holiday season, but if you can trim $50-100 month from your reoccurring expenses, it’ll make your bank statement less painful come January 1st. In the near future, I’ll do a full write-up on creating and sticking to a budget, but these hacks will get you going in the right direction.
- Cut the cord! – More and more people are completely cutting the cord, and for consumers, that’s a good thing! Competition drives prices down and increases quality of content and quantity of streaming options. So, with so many great streaming options for under $30 per month (the newly launched YouTube TV is a compelling option as well), why are so many of us still paying $80-100+ per month for cable or satellite TV services? If you’re free and clear of any contract with your cable/satellite provider, consider cutting the cord! Estimated savings $30-50 per month.
- Cable/Satellite TV Service – If you aren’t quite ready to cut the cord, at least consider switching teams. The industry standards in the cable/satellite TV service provider realm (Comcast, Directv, Dish Network, etc.) want your service and they’ll hook you up with some sweet deals to make the swap. Generally that mad deal is for a 12-24 month period, so be sure to hack a clock and when your contract is up be prepared to shop around again. They may try to get you with a bundle service which could be worth a look if you’re not tied down to your Internet service provider (ISP). Estimated savings $20-50 per month.
- Electric Bill – Many electric companies offer smart hours or similar programs which will save you money if you’re able to conform to the program requirements. Call or go to your electric companies website and see what programs are offered in your area. Here’s an example of the Gulf Power “Energy Select” program in the Tyndall AFB area. Estimated savings $10-30 per month.
- Cell Service – Much like the discussion above in #2, the competition in the cell service market has created great opportunities for savings if you switch your service provider. Heck, a lot of companies will pay to get you out of your current contract! Family plans provide savings too as most plans get cheaper as you add lines. Consider moving all of your family to one family plan and splitting the bill proportionally. Personally, I’m eyeing the T-Mobile One plan, family plan with five lines, unlimited everything and free Netflix will run $180 per month. That’s only $36 per line! Many cell service providers also offer a military discount and it takes about 10 minutes on the phone to get it set up. I’m currently saving 10% with T-Mobile. Bottom line, shop around for savings and ask your current provider about military discounts if you’re not already getting one. Estimated savings $10-50 per month.
- Car/Homeowners Insurance – Many of us blindly utilize USAA for all of our insurance needs and auto-renew our policies every 6-12 months without shopping around. Don’t get me wrong, USAA provides a good service, but in many markets, their prices are far from competitive. Do yourself a favor and shop around next time your car/homeowners insurance policy is up for renewal. I recommend using a local insurance broker to shop rates for you. They will discuss coverage amounts and then let you know what company will give you the best rate. Simply do a Google search for insurance brokers or ask friends in your area if they can recommend someone. Estimated savings $100+ per year.
- Slow Your Internet – Ok, stay with me here! A lot of us get ludicrous speed at a ridiculously cheap price when we start a bundle or a new service with an ISP. Then once the deal ends, they keep that 72 Mbps (megabits per second) and charge you $80 per month for it. If it seems like your internet bill is out of control, you may want to check out how much speed you’re paying for. In my opinion, unless you’re online gaming consistently, about 6-8 Mbps should suffice. If you’re not sure what speed will work for your family, do a little research and contact your ISP to see what prices they offer for the speed that’ll work for you. Estimated savings $10-40 per month.
- Cancel Subscription Services – Remember that free 30-day trial you signed up for!? Yeah, me neither! Perhaps it’s a good time to scrub your bank/credit card statements for subscription services that you’re no longer using or wouldn’t mind parting ways with. You can also download free apps like Truebill which will pull all of your subscription services from your statements to the app for you to analyze. They’ll offer you services to try and save you money on subscriptions, but the app and basic service is 100% free…and I like free! Estimated savings $10-40 per month.
- Reward Credit Cards – All right, I realize this can be a slippery slope and this hack is only for the disciplined spenders and thrifty folks out there. There is a ton of variety among reward credit card but most offer straight up cash back or travel credits. The catch with these bad boys is that you MUST only spend what you can pay off at the end of the month! Nerd Wallet has a list of the best reward credit cards for 2017. Military members should also consider cards from USAA and the American Express Platinum which offer great savings and no annual fees (The AmEx Platinum annual fee is $550/year for non-military!). If you’re already using a reward credit card that charges an annual fee, call to see if they waive it for active duty military…many of them do, they just don’t advertise it. Estimated savings $50+ per month.
Certainly not all of these hacks will work or apply to all of you, but I’d be willing to bet that we can all trim about $50-100 from our monthly budgets if we analyze the above mentioned expenses and look for better opportunities and deals. This will likely take you a few hours of research and phone calls, but from where I come from $100 is a lot of money and worth a little effort! I also recommend creating some kind of system/spreadsheet where you track your recurring expenses, monthly amount paid and contract expiration/renewal date as applicable. Within no time, you’ll be saving money like nobody’s business…because it’s your business…and most importantly, your families’ money!