- Don’t pay service and late fees. Why pay more on your bills than necessary? Go through all of your bills to make a list of what’s due when, and make sure you’re paying your bills on time and by a payment method that doesn’t charge fees. One thing to watch out for is auto-deductions – they’re amazingly convenient, but do you realize that many places charge a service fee for it, but you can pay online without a fee? Don’t give them a dollar more than you have to! Set reminders on your phone on when to pay each bill, and keep up with it.
- Check your phone, TV, and Internet bills, and see if they can offer you a better deal than you have. That awesome promotion they offer you when you sign up usually expires after a year or two, leaving you with a bill that creeps up unless you’re proactive about chasing the better deals. People laugh at how often Rick and I change TV service providers, but we do it because those offers run out, and changing frequently is the best way to keep our bills down. We actually found that the best deal is to cut the cord and watch our shows through online streaming, and watch local channels on a digital antenna. Sports fans note: You can do this, and still watch your college football, basketball, baseball, etc, too. SlingTV is $25 a month for their basic package and ESPN Networks added on (which includes the SEC Network). We also significantly lowered our cell phone bill by calling Verizon and asking them to review our actual phone usage and recommend a package that better suited it. It’s worth the time and trouble to check for promotions and to ask for them.
- Redeem your rewards. A lot of credit cards and stores never have to make good on their cash back, rewards, or redemption offers because people usually forget about them. Don’t make that mistake! We’ve cashed in hundreds of dollars on these rewards programs in both cash and gift cards, I’ve gotten up to $0.50 off per gallon on gas with Bi-Lo fuel perks, and once I won $100 off my grocery bill at Food Lion for using my discount card. Every little bit helps, so redeem those rewards and mail in those receipts for rebates.
- Cut the land line. Providers will tell you that bundling your services is a money saver, but it’s never a good idea to pay for something that you don’t use. Invest in a decent cell phone with the most reliable service in your area instead, and you don’t need a land line. Which leads me to my next suggestion –
- Invest in tech wisely. It’s so easy to get caught in the the glitz of the newest tech, but you need to consider what you actually need and what you plan to use it for. For example, there’s no need to invest in a Kindle or Nook if you have a smartphone or tablet, because you can get the apps for free and read on those devices. (Unless you’re like my mother, who doesn’t use the Internet and just uses the device to read ebooks – in her case, a Kindle was a wise investment.) Think about how you actually use what you have, do your research on what’s available, and make an informed decision. It’s a waste of money if you buy it just to use it for a few weeks, and then relegate it to a drawer once the “newness” wears off. Besides, something newer is always coming out, so you’ll never be “caught up” on the latest tech for long.
- Travel less and take a “stay-cation.” I know, travel is fun, but it’s also expensive. Most of us have set up our homes for maximum comfort, but when we have a chance to actually enjoy it, we pack our bags and take off instead. Why not take advantage of what home has to offer? Order a pizza and have a Netflix night. Go out to local community events. Eat at a place you don’t usually go, or haven’t been to in a while. Watch the big game on TV or listen to it on the radio with snacks instead of going to the stadium, buying tickets, paying for parking, and getting caught in pre and post game traffic (invite friends over to join you for a good, cheap party). So often, we fall into habitual ruts, and don’t realize how much more our homes and hometowns have to offer unless we intentionally open our eyes and get inventive about enjoying it. Plus, it saves a lot of money in gas and accommodations.
- Make the most of business travel. If you must travel for business, see if there’s a way to tack a vacation on to it. Rick and I went to Arizona and Washington D.C. a few days early to enjoy a few days of tourism and visiting before my conference started. It was great, because I was relaxed and ready to dive in once the conference started, and he got a vacation that was halfway paid for. Many hotels will extend special conference room rates for a few days before and after the event (and give you a bigger room so family can come with you) in case you want to take advantage of the local events outside of work, so enjoy it! Yes, you’ll have to pay some out of pocket, but if the company is paying for you to get there and back, then why not turn it into a vacation for half of what it would have cost to go on your own time? You’re going anyway, so make the most of it. Research the area where you’re being sent well in advance, plan ahead on what you want to see and do, and give yourself a few extra days before or after work to relax and enjoy the benefits of being there.
- Take care of yourself, and your stuff. It’s commonly known that maintenance is cheaper and more effective than repair, but rarely practiced. Take you medication. Exercise and eat right. Take your car in for oil changes and routine maintenance. Get proper service done on things you have warranties on. Pay attention to how things are operating, and act quickly if appliances start acting wonky. Preventative maintenance is best, and quick action is wise because repairs are always cheaper and easier than replacements. And taking the stupid pills every day is always preferable to being knocked out with an illness and a doctor’s visit that could have been prevented.
- Make gift lists wisely. Most people can’t afford to give us big ticket items for birthdays or holidays, but they can contribute toward a goal if there’s a large purchase you want or need to make. Ask for gift cards to the retailer where the item is available, and save money you are given or make from side projects to apply toward these purchases.
- Eat out less, and wisely. The cost of food has gone up exponentially in the past few years, and you really have to keep your eyes open to deals. Why not “brown bag” your lunch during the week, go out to lunch on Saturday, and plan to cook a nice meal on Saturday night? Or if you want to go out to dinner, do it on a weeknight at a restaurant that offers special deals on Tuesdays or Wednesdays? This can save you more money that you imagine.
- Mine your talents. I had a realization while surfing social media last night. I saw a picture of a bracelet somebody made and thought – I love jewelry, and I love crafting. Why am I not making jewelry? I could make unique pieces for much cheaper than buying them in a store or at a craft show! Once I clear my current crafting docket, I plan to learn jewelry making , and to add this to my crafting hobby. I could make myself and others some great gifts!
Yes, hobbies are for our personal enjoyment, but is there a way you can share them with others for cost effective, unique, and thoughtful gifts? I often make cross stitches or small crafting projects for Christmas gifts, and they’re typically cheaper than store bought gifts. Mine your talents for potential gifts, and you might be surprised at how you can create thoughtful gifts that are budget friendly. If you need some ideas, check the Crafts/Hobby board on Pinterest.
- Take advantage of give-aways or trade things. Both of the recliners in our upstairs sitting room that have become tried and true favorites came from our parents when they decided to buy new chairs, and we asked them if we could have them instead of hauling them off. Likewise, we’ve returned the favor by giving them items that we’ve replaced or updated. Furniture, electronics, and technology are tough to get rid of and don’t always get trade-in deals, so check with family and friends making upgrades it still works. Just be prepared to reciprocate in the future, because this kind of generosity should always be paid forward. And if your family and friends don’t have anything available, check secondhand stores or stores that allow trade-in’s to see if they have good deals available.
That’s all today. Take care. Have a Happy Friday tomorrow and a great weekend.