Even though the new home my family recently moved into is rent-free, we have still had to make some major adjustments to our monthly spending plan. The utilities, trash pick-up, car insurance gasoline and even groceries are all more expensive in the new area where we live. The cost savings I thought I would realize from not paying rent or a mortgage each month are not as great as I thought they would be.
It's usually a good idea to review your monthly spending plan at least on a quarterly basis, but preferably on a monthly basis, to make sure you're staying on track and make any necessary adjustments. Here are 10 quick ways to cut what I call "the monthlies"...the monthly household bills that you must pay each month no matter what.
1. Automate your bill payments. There was a month when I was really busy and forgot to pay my water bill. I had the money for it, but it just slipped my mind. That episode of forgetfulness cost me an extra $10. Most banks now offer free automatic bill pay. Take advantage of it, and never pay late fees again.
2. Read your bills. Most people just pay their bills without reviewing them, but bill collectors aren't perfect, either. They could be overcharging you for a service, or you might be paying for something that you don't actually use (phone bills contain charges for numerous services you probably don't use). Review your bills and see if there are areas you can cut, or if an error has been made in your favor.
3. Pay your bills on time. As I mentioned in tip number one, even being late by one day can cost you extra money. Pay your bills on time, and you'll also be protecting your credit rating. If you have an unexpectedly high bill one month, such as a heating bill, work out payment arrangements with the utility, but don't ignore the bill.
4. Use Average Monthly Billing. This is a service many utility companies use. They average out your energy uses over the course of a year and determine a monthly bill payment for you. So, if you live in Minnesota, instead of paying $10 for a month's worth of natural gas in June and $300 in December, you might pay $60 a month all year round. It doesn't cut the total amount you pay, but it keeps your monthly payment consistent.
5. Shop around. Your cable or internet service provider might not be the only game in town. Shop around and see if you can get a better deal on some of the bills you pay each month.
6. Keep an eye on your bank, too. When I first joined my bank about 5 years ago, I signed up for "club account" which provided overdraft protection. That "protection" cost me $11 in fees every month. After some time had gone by, I realized I don't need the protection because my account is never overdrawn. By switching to a free checking account, I saved myself $132 a year and eliminated an annoying monthly charge. Ditto with the savings accounts. While your brick-and-mortar bank may only be paying half a percent in interest on savings, online banks offer savings rats of 3 to 4 percent.
7. Use a game plan for groceries. Identify the supermarkets in your area with the best sales, double coupons days and bargains if you have their store loyalty cards. These can help you cut your grocery bill by 25 percent or more.
8. Monitor car insurance rates. As I mentioned before, my car insurance rates increased by $100 just because I moved to a new zip code. There is a lot of competition in the car insurance industry. Shop around and you may find a much better deal. Also, keep on eye out for arbitrary increases in your rate after your policy term expires.
9. Determine if your "monthlies" are necessary. You may have a monthly household bill that isn't a necessity at all. If you have a video or gym membership you rarely use, or pay for the premium cable TV plan when you really watch the same 10 TV channels each week, you've probably got some fat to cut from your monthlies.
10. Become an expert on your own finances. You can't even begin to figure out if you're paying too much on your monthlies if you have no idea what you're spending or where your money is going. There are plenty of programs out there to help you get a handle on your finances, whether it's Quicken, Mint.com, Mvelopes, Wesabe or Yodlee. Mint, Wesabe and Yodlee are free online services, and it doesn't get much better than free!
Posted by T | 12:02 PM | moving, personal finance | 3 comments »