Making Do With What You’ve Got: Part III: Lower Your Bills

credit cards, cutting bills, making due with what you've got, Uncategorized / Monday, August 15th, 2011

By now you have read Part I: Making a Budget and Part II: Balance Your Checkbook, but what if you are coming up short? What if your means don’t quite get you to your ends?

Then you have to make some cutbacks. Look at your budget and look for where you can trim the fat. Is your gym membership never being used? Do you pay a lot in overages every month on your cell phone plan?

Some simple things you can do to cut your monthly bills are:

– Call your cell phone company and switch to a plan with enough minutes so you don’t pay overagees. Trust me, its better to pay an extra $10 a month than an extra $30 in overages. Also, maybe combining your family’s phones onto a family plan will be more cost effective. You can also shop around for another cell phone company that is cheaper, but be careful of fees to end your contract early (often over $100!) and that you may have to buy a new phone that is compatible with your new service.

-Call your cable, internet, and telephone provider(s). If you don’t already have your cable tv, internet, and bundled, run the numbers because it may be cheaper to have it all at the same company. Also, they often offer promotions for new customers that they will give you if you ask. In the DC area, I have Comcast/Xfinity and have my services bundled. When my new customer promotion ended I just called them up and asked them to extend it. Easy to do and I saved a lot! Another cost cutter concerning cable tv is extra programming channels like HBO and the Sports Entertainment package. If you don’t watch them nor have the money to pay for them, cancel them and save an extra $10 a month. Of course, some of us cannot live without True Blood…so we budget that in.

-Use your utilities wisely. Conserve water and electricity. Not only is it good for the environment but it saves you money on your utility bills. If live in an apartment, look for apartments where you pay a fixed utility amount or include utilities in the monthly rent. Often this will save you money in the very hot and very cold months. Many apartment buildings that offer utilities in the cost of the rent do so at a loss to the apartment management company and use it as a recruitment tool for prospective renters.

-Plead with American Express. If your monthly payments to the credit card company are high and you are only paying the minimum, you will probably be paying that card off over the next ten years. Read your statement! If you don’t get it in the mail, you can access it on the bank website. Credit card companies by law now have to show on your statement how long it will take you to pay off your card if you only pay the minimum. Also, your statement will show what your APR (Annual Percentage Rate) is for purchases as well as for transfers and cash advances (often these are a higher rate). If it is above 7-11%, I would suggest calling the credit card company and asking them for a lower rate. Tell them that you know they want your money and you would love to give it to them and that a lower APR will make it easier to get this debt settled. They may not give it to you (it all depends on your credit and payment history) but it is definetely worth a shot. Also, check if you can dictate what debts you can pay first. If you have a cash advance debt (at a higher APR), ask that your payment go toward that debt first if it doesn’t already. Start with the highest APR and work down.

-Only pay for what you use. If you have a subscription to anything, either use it or lose it. If you never go to the gym, either go or cancel it. I think everyone should exercise and take care of themselves, but there is no sense in paying for it if you still won’t go. The same principle applies to magazines, website subscriptions, etc. If you don’t read it, don’t renew it.

Kaching! Money in your pocket! So what other suggestions for cutting monthly costs do you have?

Related Posts: Making Do With What You’ve Got: Part I: Making A Budget, Making Do With What You’ve Got: Part II: Balance Your Checkbook!, and Making Do With What You’ve Got: Part IV: Ten Principles of Couponing.