Maybe you’re a little like me? The new year’s resolutions you tore in 2014 with have washed away with the melted snow.
February is the perfect month to revisit your money goals, even if you’ve fallen off the wagon, so to speak. One of the best ways to do that is by considering those monthly utility bills that might seem like a “fixed” expense. The amount you spend might be a little more debatable than you realize.
I certainly wouldn’t advise you to function without a phone. While we live frugally, I’m not a prairie girl, and I want to have a way for the school to contact me in case one of the princesses breaks an arm. You might consider eliminating a landline if you haven’t already.
You also might want to scale back your cellphone plan. I do not have a smartphone plan even though my job is conducted primarily online. I do have an old iPhone that was given to me that I am able to use anywhere there is WiFi (which is becoming frequently more available in plenty of locations). I also have a very old cell plan of only 450 minutes per month, no texting.
No matter what culture tells us, a cellphone is a luxury. A smartphone is an extreme luxury. If you’re serious about getting out of debt, cutting back in these areas is wise. Even if you choose to keep a mobile device, it might be time to call customer service or spend time in the store researching whether you have the plan that best fits your needs.
Perhaps your bill has crept up over the years? Those numbers might not be set in stone. You may be able to save much more per month than you realize with a simple phone call.
Your trash/sewage bill usually is dependent upon where you live. Many municipalities contract with only one service provider, and your bill is determined at a set rate. However, if you live in a more rural area, you might be able to compare rates between more than one company. Do your homework to determine which will provide the best service at the lowest rate.
If recycling is a part of your fee, be sure to maximize that opportunity. Not only will you make the earth a happier place, you’ll purchase fewer trash bags, and that’s better for your bottom line.
Leaks cost big bucks. Dripping faucets and running toilets can double your bill. While a plumber might be expensive in the short term, you should be able to make up that ground in no time at all. Or if you’re at all handy, you can manage the repairs yourself. We typically avoid water pipe “insurance” plans and rely on our emergency fund instead. If there is a major break, we’ll have the cash to pay for the repair, and if there’s not we hang on to that money for another household issue.
Lights and heat
Obviously you need to be intentional about dialing down the thermostat and turning off your lights on a regular basis. Be sure you also regularly unplug small appliances like toasters, coffee makers, space heaters and even phone chargers. These phantom electricity drainers cause you to pay a much higher bill.
Consider scheduling an energy audit with Energizing Indiana for strategies to best save when it comes to keeping your home warm, well-lit and safe. We received a free shower head and sink nozzles to better manage our water flow, light bulbs and plenty of great advice when we did this a few years ago. Best of all, it’s free.
You don’t need cable television or even local television to lead a productive life, friends.
I love guilty TV time as much as the next gal, but it’s a want and not a need. For about a year, we functioned on Netflix only ($7.99).
We now have both Netflix and local channels thanks to an antennae the King of Free constructed from a 2 by 4, some washers, co-ax and free metal hangers from the laundry mat. It pulls in more than we need.
We do have cable Internet; and just like the phone bill, you can certainly call to negotiate the rate if it’s crept up over the years.
Ask for the “retention” or “loyalty” department to get the ball rolling and be kind but be firm when asking for a manager if you get a “no.” If you do choose cable for your home, be sure to ask for the “poverty” or “poor man’s” package.
This gets very basic service, including local channels at a reduced rate without the extras. Asking for a “basic” package will be much more expensive.
Have a child on the free or reduced-price lunch program? You might be able to get Comcast Internet for $9.95 per month through the Internet Essentials program.
Don’t be satisfied with those monthly bills. See what you can do to streamline the costs, improving upon your bottom line.
Determine what is really a need and what is truly a luxury.
Don’t be afraid to make a different plan if your service provider isn’t willing to nudge. You don’t have to go without power or water, but you do need to think through everything you are spending to ensure you aren’t wasting money.
If you are able to save any amount of money per month, you must do something with what you save. Simply creating more “breathing” room isn’t good enough.
Leaving extra dollars in your checking account guarantees that money will be spent.
Of course, if you’re paying off debt, throw all of that extra cash toward your smallest of debts. Otherwise, put it toward a particular savings goal.
Mark my words, if you’re not intentional with what you save, it will vanish quicker than Girl Scout cookies on delivery day.
Greenwood resident Cherie Lowe and her husband paid off $127,000 in debt in four years and now live debt-free every day with their two kids. Send questions, column ideas and comments to email@example.com.