Take a hard look at the situation. It’s time to ask yourself: Do you actually have a handle on your finances? When was the last time you bought something you knew you didn’t need, and how often do you do that? Are you in debt?
Do you have more money streaming out of your account than you have being added? More importantly, are you ready to do something about it? If you are, keep reading.
Look at your account and understand where each red area came from. Can you group some of these things together? No app can categorize your spending the way you can. It’s up to you to find where your financial priorities are. Otherwise, it’ll just be listed as miscellaneous and you won’t be able to do anything about it. Dozens of dollars a month adds up. Save that money.
Once you do this, you’ll be able to explain what you need, what you actually need, and what you want. Use a hierarchy of spending, starting with debts, then groceries, then coffee, then whatever’s next. Could you replace coffee with sleeping more, or wait until you get to work?
Still, you have needs. You need to pay the bills. You need heat in the winter. You need to turn on the stove. How can you cut costs? Can you cut costs? The answer is yes. Bills are important. There are limited ways to get out of paying these guys, but there are ways to save money. Here’s the scoop.
When that hotline bling
When it comes to phone bills, make sure you have the right plan. There are good ways to check how much data you’re using. Download an app and be sure to use wifi while you do it. Once you have an estimate of how much data you’re using, you may find that your plan’s data cap is well over the estimate. If you have a plan for 10GB, but you’re using less than 2GB, scale back.
Heating up the gas bill
Believe it or not, it is possible to keep your lights on and pay less. By using tools, common sense, and a little reminder or two, you can cut this bill down. Some things will be intuitive, but bear with us.
Leave notes on the doors reminding yourself to turn off lights as you leave. Seriously. We all say we do this, but do we actually? Is the light in your bathroom off right now? Go check. Another idea is to change your incandescents or fluorescents to LED lights. While more expensive upfront, they save money in the long run. Just two incandescent light bulbs use as much power as a 27 inch Mac computer. That’s a lot of power.
Secondly, unplug things you don’t use that often. Why is the toaster plugged in when you only use it in the morning? What is charging right now that has been charging for hours? Stop that. It doesn’t do you any good if you don’t need it charged up right now. Remember that stereo equipment still draw power when they’re plugged in but turned off. Go around and physically unplug things. Trust us.
Turn off your air conditioner right now. It’s February, what are you, crazy? Instead, turn off some of those heat generating electronics you like so much. Wear less clothes, and okay, you can have it on a little. Just don’t overdo it. No your limits. This can be the whopper of your bill.
When we’re shaving this bill, remember that every little bit counts. Turn off your electronics when you’re not using them. No, we don’t mean log off. Turn them off. You’d be surprised how that money just came back to you.
Use timers to keep things on only when you need it. This will save some moolah on items that should be on, but then we’re not around to turn them off when we need to be. This is especially useful for lamps. While you’re at it, will you really need hot water around three in the morning? What about the internet around five? You can put these things on timers.
Use appliances at night during off peak hours. Your utility company may charge lower during these times. That energy can be saved after all! You did it!
Watching the cable, satellite, whatever
You can either change or downgrade your plan. Who has time for all of those premium channels, or premium features? Who wants to sit in front of a TV that long anyway? Contact your company and ask how much you’re really getting for your plan right now. Some of it may be something you haven’t even heard of before, and definitely something you don’t need.
Sometimes all you have to do is ask. A sales rep may be able to lower the rate for you. Ask to the customer retention department. Don’t let them increase your bill. Who knows, a promotional rate may be in your future.
Give yourself some credit
We can’t really save here, but we can try to cut some loose ends. Credit cards never appreciate in value, and there’s no easy way to make this positive. Let’s focus on getting the number to zero.
Find lower interest, or higher rewards. You should always try to compare these guys as much as possible. Finding a better deal should always be a priority. Make sure to read agreements carefully so you don’t wind up paying for anything you could get for free. You’d be amazed that more than half of consumers that participated in a study by MasterCard weren’t familiar with the benefits offered to them. Many cards extend a manufacturer’s warranty. Credit cards sometimes offer extra travel accident insurance, trip cancellation insurance, and/or travel emergency insurance.
If you have a higher-interest card, and you just found a lower-interest card, go ahead and transfer your balance. The least it can do is save you thousands in interest while you work on chopping the debt down. There may be a small fee to transfer, it’s insignificant to what you could be saving.
Just call and remind them that you’ve been a customer for a while, and that you’d like to have a break on that interest rate. The worst that could happen is that they just say no. If that happens, let them know that you’ve been perusing a balance transfer with their competitor who has lower interest. Don’t let them call a bluff. Do it if they don’t budge.