We’ve talked before about building your budget. By now you’ve probably also scoured dozens of different articles that promise to teach you how to reduce your monthly bills so that you have more money for savings and for fun. All of those articles have the same tips: use the library, don’t shop as often, buy in bulk. This article is going to be a little different. In this article we’re going to teach you some of the unconventional ways to reduce your monthly spending.
Go to the Source
A lot of people think that the only bills you can negotiate are credit card bills. This is not true! You can also negotiate (at least to a certain extent) your utilities and other bills as well. Start with you power bill. Scour that bill and look for any charges that seem unwarranted and then–this is where most people chicken out–actually call your company and ask about them or even dispute them! Getting unwarranted fees and taxes taken off your bill can reduce it by quite a bit.
If you live in an unregulated area, like Texas or Illinois, start shopping around. For example, if you live in Houston, spend some time researching electricity companies in Texas to find out which companies can give you the best rates. You might find massive savings are out there if you take the time to look for them. You can apply these techniques with water and gas bills, too.
Use What You Have
Be careful here. If you take this too far, you venture into hoarding territory–afraid of ever throwing anything out, lest it become useful someday. Still, saving items like glass jars, re-usable to-go containers, plastic bags, etc can be a great way to save money. Just make sure that the things you are saving are actually useful to you in some real way not simply in a “I bet I can find a way to use that” way.
One great example of this is to use what you already have in your pantry, freezer and fridge to make dinner. You might think you already do this but be really honest with yourself. Do you ever only use what you have on hand or do you look for a recipe with ingredients that you mostly already have and then go out and buy the rest? Those one or two items that you might only use once are huge budget problems. Instead, look for sites that will help you build recipes around what you actually have on hand, like MyFridgeFood or Supercook. This way less of your food sits around long enough to go bad and you spend less time at the grocery store.
Compare What You Use
We all love television, right? Nobody is going to judge you for that. If you want to save money, though, you have to look very carefully at where you’re getting your entertainment. For example: are you paying through the nose for a cable package just so you can enjoy one or two channels? Do those two channels offer their programming online? Are you paying for Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and CBS All Access but only really use Hulu and Amazon Prime to catch your favorite shows? We all like to have variety and options but why are you forking over $40+ a month for services you don’t actually use regularly? Try suspending your accounts with these monthlies for a while and see if you actually miss them.
Alternatively, chuck your cable package out for a cheaper and more robust internet connection. If you miss network TV you can always add those channels back in to your package later, right? Another option is to simply buy shows outright. For example: if you’re paying $8 a month for Hulu and $6 a month for CBS All Access so that you can watch Grey’s Anatomy and Big Bang Theory, that’s $168 a year. Buying both shows’ current seasons outright through iTunes or Amazon will cost you around $75ish. Why are you spending all of that extra money?
The real point here is that the best way to really reduce what you spend every month isn’t to figure out what you can live without. It’s about finding the best and most affordable ways to pay for what you already have and want. Talk to your utility companies about fees. Cancel services you aren’t actually using. Save things that are useful. Use what you have before buying new. They’re simple concepts but complex to put into practice. With some time, though, you’ll get really good at it. We promise!