7 Unnecessary Household Expenses You Can Cut Today

by Carrie Kirby on 2 April 2014 (22 comments)

Sponsored by Skype — Use Skype Credit to call mobiles and landlines home and abroad at low rates.

When cutting spending, household expenses are a great place to start. We tend to spend money on the same things month in, month out, all year — so when we change to a cheaper service provider or eliminate a service altogether, we only have to think about it once but the savings go on and on. Here are the seven most unnecessary household expenses you can get rid of today.

1. Cable TV

Unless addicted to live sporting events, even the most voracious viewer can be satisfied without paying a costly cable bill nowadays. Use a Blu-ray player with an Internet connection, a Roku or another appliance to tap into programming delivered free via the Internet from network websites, or pay a fraction of the cost of cable for Netflix, Hulu Plus, or an Amazon Prime membership, which includes streaming video.

You can also try a high-powered antenna to see what you can get over the airwaves — you might be surprised by the volume and variety of programming available.

Even sports fans can get some of their fix with new sport-specific services that cost much less than a year of cable.

2. Most Cleaning Products and Toiletries

There may be only two household products in the world that truly live up to the hype: baking soda and vinegar. They can clean counters, they can unclog drains, they can make tubs and toilets sparkle, boost your laundry, clean your dishwasher, and they can even clean your hair. Because of these inexpensive miracle products, I’ve avoided buying counter spray, bathroom cleaner, and shampoo for years now.

3. Late Fees

If you have the money to pay your bills, there is no reason to pay extra in the form of late fees. Reminder systems can be as simple as Google or Outlook calendar alerts for when it’s time to pay. You can also set up free automatic bill paying on many checking accounts, or sign up for a more elaborate budgeting system such as Mint.com, which also includes payment reminders.

If you do make a late payment, you can often get out of paying the fee with a simple phone call. If the regular agent at your credit card company balks at waiving the fee, ask to be transferred to a retention specialist and threaten to cancel your account. If you have had an account in good standing for a few years, chances are they will not put your threat to the test.

4. Landscaping Services

There are a number of ways to minimize lawn care costs:

  • you can do it yourself;
  • you can minimize the amount of lawn you have by planting low-maintenance native plants; or
  • you can plant low-maintenance varieties of grass.

Leaving the clippings on the lawn may reduce or eliminate the need for fertilizer, cutting your costs even more.

5. Phone Bills

You may already use Skype to make free video or voice calls from computer to computer. But did you know Skype also has great rates that allow you to call mobiles or home phones, domestically or internationally?

Conveniently, you can pay for that service using Skype Credit, which you can buy in $10 or $25 increments. You just add credit to your account through the website or in the Skype app, and the credit is available whenever you want to call someone’s phone. You can also use Skype Credit to have Skype calls forwarded to your mobile or home phone, to use Skype Wi-Fi hotspots, or to send SMS messages.

6. Subscriptions and Memberships

Take a survey of everything you subscribe to, from magazines and newspapers to online services, and every organization you pay to belong to, from gyms to professional organizations. You might be surprised to learn that you’ve been paying for subscriptions that you stopped using years ago. If you are still using the product or service, ask yourself if the subscription is something you could replace for free, such as by checking out the same magazine from the library or reading articles online.

6. Extended Warranties, Service Plans, and Some Insurance

Most of the add-ons offered at the register or by repair services are not worth the money, according to Consumer Reports. And while homeowner’s or renter’s insurance and auto insurance are must-haves, it’s usually not worthwhile to buy cell phone or identity theft insurance.

7. Credit Monitoring Services

It is a good idea to keep an eye on your credit to prevent identity theft and other fraud, but unless you have reason to believe that your passwords or financial info have been compromised, you may not need to pay $10 or $20 a month for a high-end professional credit monitoring service. You can check your credit reports for free, and you can also step up your vigilance about your cards and social security number to prevent fraud.

If you have been a fraud victim, you can temporarily freeze your credit for free, making it impossible for anyone to open a new credit account in your name without a PIN. If you haven’t been a victim, you can freeze your credit for a small fee.

Sponsored by Skype — Use Skype Credit to call mobiles and landlines home and abroad at low rates.

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Guest's picture

Skype, Viber and other mobile applications that offer free video chat and free call are very amazing! We contacted our relatives in abroad by using that free call.

Guest's picture

Skype, Viber and other mobile applications that offer free video chat and free call are very amazing! We contacted our relatives in abroad by using that free call.

Guest's picture
Guest

Hello Carrie,

Most of your counsel is very good, but there's one place people may want to reconsider.

Yes, you can freeze your credit for free. BUT, (as we recently found out because our son's social security number was hacked), it is a huge hassle. The "hackee" has to have two proofs of ID and a current bank account statement, copies have to be mailed to a credit reporting bureau with a cover letter, the credit bureau decides you are who you say you are, they report the fraud to the other agencies, and your credit is frozen for 90 days. Then you have to do it again. It's not a matter of a simple phone call. Gratefully, our son has two forms of ID, but what if he was a little kid with only a social security number and no bank account?

We couldn't see clear to putting money into ID theft insurance before this experience as our budget is tight, but will really have to reconsider. I don't want to think about the fact someone filed taxes using his number. But there it is. I'm finding out it's not uncommon. Not many would check their kid's credit rating, so thieves have easy pickings.

Guest's picture
Kalena

I have frozen my husbands', mine, and my daughters credit, and I encourage anyone who will listen to me to do a freeze. Fraud alerts and such just tell you AFTER there has been fraudulent activity - why not prevent it? This way no one else can open a credit card or get a loan in our names. Freeze your credit before you get hacked.

Guest's picture

There are three things where I spend more or less on a monthly basis. The first one is definitely the lawn costs. That costs me a lot every month. But from now on I’ll get some time on my weekends, especially in the morning to do that stuff myself. I’ll also ask my husband to help me out. Another cost, though minimum, is late fees on various counts. I regularly forget the dates and end up paying late fees. That’s annoying. I’ll keep a note of that I a notebook. In fact, I have already started maintaining that. Another cost is Phone Bill. Though Skype cannot b the substitute but still I’ll make the long distance and long duration calls from Skype itself.

Guest's picture
Guest

I have moved all my accounts' due dates to the same day of the month and automated payment as much as possible. These two things have made it easy to remember, and very difficult to forget.

Never late on anything!

Guest's picture
Judy

Might be worthwhile to get paper bills (but still e-pay when due) and do this:

1. Open bill upon receipt and separate payment stub from bill (fold and place under flap so it's visible.
2. Note on outside flap corner date to e-pay or mail (ie, E-Pay 4/18).
3. Line up all bills with this outside flap showing in order of due date (ie., 4/18, 4/21, etc.).
4. I do this immediately when I get the bills and there they sit in one specific place on my desk (dates facing me or facing up) where I will not miss seeing them. For anything I decide to mail, I also put a stamp on the envelope and fill out the return address.
Done.

Guest's picture
Guest

There is an app called manilla for your smartphone that alerts you of due dates!

Guest's picture
Guest

Most cable networks no longer let you watch their shows online for fee. They require you to sign in through your cable company before you can view an episode.

Guest's picture
Guest

If you think I'm gonna use baking soda and vinegar to wash my hair YOU HAVE LOST YOUR MIND

Guest's picture
Guest

Believe it or not, baking soda and apple cider vinegar did wonders to my hair. As a person who has used Garnier, Pantene, Wen, Organix, "salon approved products", Suave, and TRESemme, baking soda and apple cider vinegar work really well!

TRUST me. If you saw the ingredients in your shampoo and conditioner, you would not want to individually put that stuff in your hair.

How is sulfur and chloride worse than baking soda?

Guest's picture
Guest

Actually it's really healthy for your hair and makes it grow longer, and adds a nice shine to it as well. I do it every now and then because shampoos and conditioners are actually really bad for our hair. Now I don't pour a box of baking soda on my head and then follow it by using the whole bottle of vinegar I'd reek. You use small amounts of baking soda mixed with water and vinegar mixed with water two different steps.

Guest's picture
Guest

Vinegar is only for rinsing your hair, lemon juice ifyoure a blonde, superscrimoers recommend herbal essence as the best, priced between £1 - £20 , expensive are no better

Guest's picture
Guest

Leaving clippings on a lawn is a BAD idea, unless you are going through a drought. I mad ethat mistake as I was fed up with keep emptying my collector, so I bought a "Mulcher". Three years on and the lawn is 90% moss and lichen, what grass there is cannot breathe, and it is like mowwing steel wool. I have now had to use a lot of moss killer (The "lawn" is nearly half an acre, and then hire a commercial scarifier to clean out the accumulated thatch. I now have a semi desert. but with nature's great "survival of the fittest" dynamic, the grass that survived the scarifier is the best grass, and I need to re-seed the bare patches now. And NOT leave clippings on the lawn in future!! (and the Blue Tits love the huge pile of Lichen and moss for their nest building!:)

Guest's picture
Anonymous

While I agree with most of the suggestions, the lawn suggestion is the worst idea EVER! Obviously, you have never HAD a lawn and just "left the clippings" or you would know that over time, (and it doesn't take more than a few years) your lawn area becomes HIGHER and HIGHER and eventually is taller than the SIDEWALK or CONCRETE patio that it's next to...and then it looks really lame. REALLY LAME.

This is what happened with our regular tract home lawn. If you want to compost those clippings and use them for fertilizer in the plant/shrub area of your yard...that is a good idea. But don't just let the clippings drop or you will have a huge mound of grass (instead of a flat lawn) and it will be expen$ive to get it back to normal.

Guest's picture
Janina Storm

To those who have complaints about mulching, I'm sorry but the solution to your problem is to cut your lawn regularly & keep it 2-3" high.
We have never bagged or raked our lawns. On the odd occasion that we have missed cutting for what ever reason, we just run the lawn mower over any piles of cut grass to spread them around. Not only do we have beautiful, green grass even during droughts, we water our lawns very rarely.
In contrast our neighbours that water & don't mulch always end up with yellow/brown grass during droughts.

Guest's picture
RitzP

Hi Carrie

Two things will definitely help me 1. Late fee 2. Phone Bills

I always delay my payments and suffer a lot because of let fee. Reminders will definitely help here.

Phone, i am not very sure because it is convenient than skype and any other thing. But surely, will give it a try.

Guest's picture
Guest

I have been bad in the past about late fees and now I pay all my bills on line - most automatically so I don't have to worry about. Aside from just the money you pay in late fees, it affects your credit rating so it's really important to get that under control.

Guest's picture

5, 6 and 7 seem like no brainers. To avoid late fees, I think the simpler the better. I automate everything that allows without a extra charge. Things that can't be automated from the company, can be from your checking account.

All credit cards will let you choose a date to pay where you can specify the minimum payment, full balance or another amount and it will be automatically deducted from your checking account on the date specified. Always go for the full balance to avoid interest if possible. Bills that stay the same can be automated from your checking account to be paid on the same date each month. The only one I have to go in and enter the payment for each month is the electric bill.

Keep a simple spreadsheet, made with the "table" feature in Microsoft word, that lists your monthly bills and/or budget amount and check them off when they've been paid. All bills have a regular monthly due date that doesn't change. Type it on the spreadsheet. Take 5 min once a week to glance at it. If it's close to the due date and it hasn't been checked, pay it. It's simple as that and takes 5 minutes a week.

If you're looking for fresh ideas on saving, visit http://www.savvysavingtips.com/

Guest's picture

Totally agree on cutting the cord for cable though the streaming quality generally doesn't rival the hd cable channels. I'm learning to really watch the Nationally broadcast games and actually go out to the ballpark like they used to do in the olden days. With HBO becoming available on Amazon Prime cutting the cable cord is even more tempting!

Guest's picture

I totally agree with you on cutting most of these household expenses except Landscaping Services. I pay about $70/month for my landscaper to take care of my lawn. To me, it's worth paying someone else to do it for 2 reasons: 1. they do a much better job than me because they know what they're doing and have the right equipments. 2. I'd need to spend several hours each month if I was doing it myself. For $70, I think my time could be better spent elsewhere.

Guest's picture
Guest

No, paying someone to mow my lawn doesn't free up my time to make more money. But it frees up my time to play with my family, attend weekend events, take my son fishing, etc. Sometimes we get so caught up in saving money we forget the things money can't buy.