lower bills http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/10376/all en-US 25 Painless Ways to Save $50 This Year http://www.wisebread.com/25-painless-ways-to-save-50-this-year <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/25-painless-ways-to-save-50-this-year" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/8142758607_be95b991ca_z.jpg" alt="piggy bank" title="piggy bank" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Is this the year to review and revamp your savings strategy? If so, consider making some small but tactical changes that can add up to big savings. Here are 25 painless ways to save $50 (or more) this year. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/25-ways-to-save-5-this-week">25 Ways to Save $5 This Week</a>)</p> <h2>1. Frequent Your Local Library</h2> <p>Skip the downloads and bookstores; the library is still free. Your patronage keeps your library healthy and supports the local community.</p> <h2>2. Raise Your Deductible</h2> <p>If you&rsquo;re a safe driver and are willing to gamble a bit, consider raising your auto insurance deductible. Higher deductibles typically mean lower premiums.</p> <h2>3. Pay for Your Gas at the Pump</h2> <p>Paying at the pump saves you from the carnival of fast food and sugary wonders that await most customers inside every convenience store. Skip the temptation and save a few bucks while you&rsquo;re at it.</p> <h2>4. Check Your PMI</h2> <p>PMI, or Private Mortgage Insurance, is an extra fee assessed to every mortgagor who puts down less than 20% on the purchase of their home. However, when a homeowner&rsquo;s loan-to-value ratio reaches 80%, the PMI charges should no longer apply. Trouble is, mortgage companies aren&rsquo;t particularly inclined to voluntarily stop the fees. Check with you lender to see if should still be paying for PMI.</p> <h2>5. Brew Your Own Coffee</h2> <p><a href="http://www.wisebread.com/better-brewing-12-ways-to-make-coffee-at-home">Brewing your own coffee</a> can save time and money. After awhile you&rsquo;ll wonder why you ever suffered through those long lines only to fork over $3 for a 50 cent cup of joe.</p> <h2>6. Skip the Drive-Thru</h2> <p>Nothing suspends good judgment like hunger. Avoid hitting the road on an empty stomach and being tempted at the drive-thru. Those glossy photos of combo meals combined with super-sized options won&rsquo;t do your waistline or wallet any favors.</p> <h2>7. Renegotiate Your Cell Phone Plan</h2> <p>Cell phone companies restructure their plans all the time to stay competitive. Call your provider to see if there&rsquo;s a plan that will give you similar services with a lower price tag. If you&rsquo;re near the end of a contract period, use it as leverage as you negotiate a new contract or move to a month-to-month rate.</p> <h2>8. Travel Light</h2> <p>Checked baggage fees aren&rsquo;t going away any time soon. When you fly, skip the extra charges by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/vacation-hack-7-tips-for-single-bag-travel">packing strategically using only a carry-on</a>.</p> <h2>9. Shop Second Hand</h2> <p>Check out your local thrift store and discover the bargains that await in nearly every department. In most cases, your business will help local charities and keep your consumer dollars at home.</p> <h2>10. Let Your Garden Grow</h2> <p>Growing a bit of your own food can save some serious cash. Take a look at the fruits, veggies, and herbs you eat most often. Do you have room to grow some yourself?</p> <h2>11. Un-Bottle Your Water</h2> <p>Bottled water is a bummer for budgets and for the environment. Pick up a simple filtering system (or go rogue with tap water) and &quot;make&quot; your own.</p> <h2>12. Turn Off the TV</h2> <p>A great person once said &quot;What television proposed, the mall disposed.&quot; Commercials and even regular programming are designed to make us <em>want</em>. Flipping off the TV is a revolutionary (and ultimately, a money saving) act. Flip open a good book instead.</p> <h2>13. Cancel That Gym Membership</h2> <p>Have a lingering health club membership that you don&rsquo;t use but never get around to canceling? Redirect that cash to a Roth IRA and build your money muscle.</p> <h2>14. Carpool</h2> <p>Ridesharing of any kind helps save money on fuel, tolls, and wear-and-tear. Set up a carpool program at work or with friends who have similar schedules and save some serious cash by year&rsquo;s end.</p> <h2>15. Go to Matinees</h2> <p>Want to rekindle the exhilaration of playing hooky as a kid? See a matinee in the middle of the week. Matinees are a great way to reclaim part of your day &mdash; at a much lower admission price.</p> <h2>16. Celebrate Small</h2> <p>Does it seem like holidays have gotten out of control? From Valentine&rsquo;s Day to Halloween and Christmas, folks are spending like crazy on decorations, supplies, or gifts. Scale back, set a budget, and give the gift of less stress.</p> <h2>17. Mow Your Own Lawn</h2> <p>Industrious school kids may hate me for suggesting it, but mowing our own lawns and shoveling our own sidewalks is great exercise. Cut back on expenditures by adopting a do-it-yourself attitude this year.</p> <h2>18. Stay In</h2> <p>Make one date night a month a night to stay in together. Rent a movie and cook up some romance in the kitchen.</p> <h2>19. Go Generic</h2> <p>The labels might be ugly, but the savings are beautiful. If you haven&rsquo;t already, compare your favorite brands to their generic equivalents. Is there a noticeable difference that&rsquo;s worth the brand name up charge?</p> <h2>20. Dry Clean Less</h2> <p>Dry cleaning taxes our wallets and the environment. As you replenish your wardrobe throughout the year, gravitate toward clothes that don&rsquo;t require dry cleaning.</p> <h2>21. Pack a Lunch</h2> <p>It&rsquo;s common to pack to a lunch for school, work, or a picnic. But why not <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/creating-cheap-healthy-work-lunches">consider brown-bagging</a> it for a road trip, long commute, or any other time when you&rsquo;d normally have to eat out? It can save time, calories, and a few bucks, too.</p> <h2>22. Reevaluate Your Cable Service</h2> <p>Believe it or not, a few cable companies are actually customer focused. Making a simple phone call to explore discounts, bundling deals, or promotional offers can sometimes save you cash. Often, just the threat of losing a customer will prompt some companies to give you a temporary deal on rates.</p> <h2>23. Use Cruise Control</h2> <p>If long commutes are part of your routine, depend on cruise control to keep you safely within posted speed limits. These days, one ticket avoided is hundreds saved!</p> <h2>24. Empty That Storage Space</h2> <p>Extra space is great when we&rsquo;re in transition due to a big move or downsizing, but many of us keep paying rent to storage facilities long after we need to. Resolve to <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/7-reasons-why-self-storage-is-a-really-bad-idea">clear out your storage space</a>, move to a smaller unit, or reorganize your home to get that monthly hit off the books.</p> <h2>25. Watch Your ATM Fees</h2> <p>ATM fees can add up quickly and are really just a convenience tax. Draw a line in the sand and make 2013 the year you say &quot;no&quot; to these charges. Organize your withdrawals so you&rsquo;re using an in-network ATM or withdraw larger sums after each pay cycle so you always have cash on-hand.</p> <p><em>What&rsquo;s your way to save in 2013? What tips have I missed that can help our readers save $50 or more this year? Let's crowd source some ideas below!</em>&nbsp;</p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/25-painless-ways-to-save-50-this-year" class="sharethis-link" title="25 Painless Ways to Save $50 This Year" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/kentin-waits">Kentin Waits</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Frugal Living how to save more money how to spend $50 lower bills Thu, 31 Jan 2013 11:36:36 +0000 Kentin Waits 967452 at http://www.wisebread.com Seriously, Get Rid of Your Landline http://www.wisebread.com/seriously-get-rid-of-your-landline <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/seriously-get-rid-of-your-landline" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/1034889957_34686d8940_z.jpg" alt="telephone" title="telephone" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Do you still have a telephone that plugs into the wall of your house? As of June 2012, 34% of households in the U.S. have gone wireless only, according to the <a href="http://www.marketingcharts.com/direct/landline-phone-penetration-dwindles-as-cell-only-households-grow-22577/" target="_blank">U.S. National Health Information Study</a>. That percentage will only go up in the coming years &mdash; over 59% of 25- to 29-year-olds live in homes without landlines.</p> <p>From a financial perspective, it&rsquo;s hard to justify setting up a new landline if you already <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-monthly-bills-you-can-slash">pay a cell phone bill</a> every month. Depending on the package, a landline can cost between $180 and $480 every year. That can mean big savings if you already have a landline and want to get rid of it, too. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/why-i-like-my-flip-phone-the-5-smartphone-effects">Why&nbsp;I Like My&nbsp;Flip Phone</a>)</p> <h2>The Ubiquity of Cell Phones</h2> <p>As a culture, we like cell phones. There are still some issues we&rsquo;re working out &mdash; like how young is too young for a cell phone &mdash; but, in general, it&rsquo;s not an unreasonable assumption that if you&rsquo;re reading this article, you have a cell phone. In fact, CTIA <a href="http://arstechnica.com/business/2012/10/talk-is-cheap-six-billion-people-worldwide-have-cellphones/" target="_blank">reported</a> in 2012 that there are more mobile subscriptions in the U.S. than there are people living in the country.</p> <p>Why would you want to keep a landline if you are statistically likely to already have a cell phone in your hand? Since most people who want to reach you probably call your cell directly, your reasons might include concerns about safety.</p> <p><strong>What About Emergency Response?</strong></p> <p>Up until recently, one of the biggest issues was whether emergency responders could find someone calling from a cell phone. In the event that a person called 911, but was unable to give their location, a cell phone does not necessarily provide an address. However, newer cell phones incorporate <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enhanced_9-1-1" target="_blank">E911 capability</a>, which allows a service provider to give data about location to emergency responders.</p> <p><strong>What About Cell Phone Reliability?</strong></p> <p>There&rsquo;s also a concern that cell phones may be less reliable than landlines.</p> <p>In general, reliability has increased since cell phones were first introduced, although there are still some places where you just won&rsquo;t get great reception. In emergencies, it&rsquo;s often possible that either, or even both, wired or wireless phone service will be disrupted, so choosing between the two is a bit of a wash.</p> <p>There are some systems that may seem to require a phone line, like fax machines and alarm systems. But just about every system has a wireless alternative these days. It may take a little research to find options, but saving a few hundred dollars each year is worth it.</p> <h2>Is There Any Reason to Keep Your Landline?</h2> <p>For some people <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-reasons-i-still-dont-have-a-cellphone-plan-yet">keeping a landline</a> may still make sense. The most obvious reason is if you don&rsquo;t have a cell phone already. If you&rsquo;ve managed to make it this long without a cell phone, by all means, stick to what&rsquo;s working for you!</p> <p>Some locations are still not very cell phone friendly. Because of the realities of geography and location of cell towers, there are still some places that are effectively dead zones for cell connections. If your home is in once such place, you&rsquo;ll need to have a landline or another alternative, such as Skype or other VOIP services.</p> <p>There are also some very specific situations that still require a landline; for instance, people with pacemakers must have access to a landline for monitoring purposes (using a specialized interface, doctors can monitor pacemakers over the phone).</p> <p>If you&rsquo;re not comfortable with not having a landline for any reason and the cost isn&rsquo;t an issue, make the decision that you&rsquo;re comfortable with. But if you don&rsquo;t need a landline and no special situations apply, it&rsquo;s worth considering getting rid of yours.</p> <p><em>Have you dropped your landline telephone service? If not, why not?</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/seriously-get-rid-of-your-landline" class="sharethis-link" title="Seriously, Get Rid of Your Landline" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/thursday-bram">Thursday Bram</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Lifestyle cell phones landline lower bills Thu, 24 Jan 2013 10:48:36 +0000 Thursday Bram 967386 at http://www.wisebread.com The Slow Bleed: Plugging Your Financial Leaks http://www.wisebread.com/the-slow-bleed-plugging-your-financial-leaks <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/the-slow-bleed-plugging-your-financial-leaks" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/6736154311_9a0a3a44ba_b.jpg" alt="piggy bank" title="piggy bank" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Financial woes can come quickly from big events like a foreclosure, loss of a job, or health problems. These misfortunes, though painful, make a certain amount of sense. Clearly A caused B and led to C &mdash; however just or unjust A, B, or C may seem. But at other times, our finances suffer death by a thousand cuts. Harder to pinpoint, we can&rsquo;t make ends meet or get ahead. We work, pay our bills, and live modest lives. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/emergency-plan-better-than-an-emergency-fund">Emergency&nbsp;Plan:&nbsp;Better Than an&nbsp;Emergency&nbsp;Fund</a>)</p> <p>Still, something is amiss. Somewhere in the complex system of our financial lives, resources are being drained dollar by dollar. If your otherwise healthy relationship with money still leaves you coming up short, maybe you have a secret financial slow-bleed. Here are six of the most common causes.</p> <h3>1. Interest on Consumer Debt</h3> <p>Interest is more like a gusher than a slow bleed. I mention it only because paying interest is so accepted and expected that we often don&rsquo;t realize how much it can drain our wealth. Paying interest on everything from cars to cheeseburgers is insidious, and if left unchecked, it saps our resources and demands more and more of our budgets. What are you paying interest on? Were they wants or needs? Are the items appreciating in value, or depreciating?</p> <h3>2. Service Charges and Late Fees</h3> <p>We live in a world that&rsquo;s bent on collecting your nickels and dimes. It happens when we pay a bill over the phone and incur a convenience fee, when we return a DVD and pay a late fee, when we need to speak to a customer service representative and get charged a service fee, or when we bounce a check and have to cover an overdraft fee. Unnecessary fees bleed our cash and though some are unavoidable, others aren&rsquo;t. Defend your dimes and dollars and wage war on all fees that are within your control.</p> <h3>3. Lazy Money</h3> <p>Interest lost is income lost. Take a look at your savings accounts, and your <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-reasons-why-a-roth-ira-may-be-better-than-your-401k">401(k) and IRA investments</a>. Do you know what your average rate of return is? Is your money working as hard for you as you worked for it? Being mindful of your personal comfort level with risk, explore ways to boost the return on your money.</p> <h3>4. Contracts</h3> <p>Consumers have more power than they realize, and there are ways to score better deals on cable, cell phone plans, and other services if you&rsquo;re courageous enough to push the envelope a little. Make a few <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-get-what-you-want-on-customer-service-calls">calls to your service providers</a> and let them know you&rsquo;re shopping around for a better deal. You&rsquo;ll be surprised how quickly those air-tight contracts get a bit more breathing room.</p> <h3>5. Membership Dues</h3> <p>Unused health club memberships are the monthly equivalent to using an exercise bike as a coat rack. We join a gym (usually around January 1 of any given year) with the best of intentions. Then we start the long journey of forking over $60 a month until we come to our senses and somehow manage to wriggle out of the contract. Do you have a membership that you&rsquo;re paying for and don&rsquo;t use? Add up how much it&rsquo;s costing you per year (include interest if you don&rsquo;t pay off your credit card every month). Explore selling your membership, renegotiating your dues, or paying a penalty to get out of the contract.</p> <h3>6. Hyper-Insurance and High Insurance Deductibles</h3> <p>Ignore this section if you&rsquo;re accident prone or driving a brand-new Ferrari. Otherwise, consider this &mdash; as a product, insurance was originally designed to save folks from financial hardship and ruin. But over the past 15-20 years we&rsquo;ve begun insuring our coffee makers, cell phones, and TVs. I call this phenomenon &ldquo;hyper-insurance.&rdquo; Granted, I&rsquo;m not intimately aware of your financial situation, but I doubt that a TV tragedy is going to land you on the streets. Why are we insuring every electronic bauble we own? Is the risk/expense ratio really that compelling?</p> <p>Similarly, folks are deathly afraid of the high-deductible <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/4-tips-to-save-on-car-insurance">auto insurance policy</a>. We gladly pay more for low deductible policies and effectively buy insurance on our insurance. I know accidents can happen at any time, but take a realistic look at your driving record and accident history. Could you bump up the deductible and still be solvent in the unlikely event of a fender-bender? If so, it might be worth upping the deductible and lowering your monthly insurance bill.</p> <p>When we focus our attention on the tiny leaks in our financial lives, we acknowledge one important truth &mdash; little things add up. Fees, dues, usurious interest rates, silly insurance products &mdash; they&rsquo;re all born in a boardroom and survive only by our willingness to pay. Let&rsquo;s agree to plug the leaks, bandage the slow-bleed, and save some serious cash.</p> <p><em>Have you identified leaks in your budget? What did you do to plug them?</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/the-slow-bleed-plugging-your-financial-leaks" class="sharethis-link" title="The Slow Bleed: Plugging Your Financial Leaks" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/kentin-waits">Kentin Waits</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Frugal Living Banking cancelling contracts credit card debt high interest savings lower bills Tue, 03 Jul 2012 10:24:08 +0000 Kentin Waits 937781 at http://www.wisebread.com 10 Monthly Bills You Can Slash http://www.wisebread.com/10-monthly-bills-you-can-slash <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/10-monthly-bills-you-can-slash" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/man_looking_at_bills.jpg" alt="Man looking at the mail" title="Man looking at the mail" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="151" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Bills! Bills! Bills! Sometimes it seems as if everyone&rsquo;s got their fingers in the pie when it comes to your hard-earned money. Electric bills, water bills, cable, cell phone bills, doctor&rsquo;s visits &mdash; the cost-of-living expenses never seem to end. However, if you&rsquo;re smart about it, you can work the system and save some money on these so-called necessary expenses. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/6-tips-to-shrink-your-bills-every-year">6 Tips to Shrink Your Bills Every&nbsp;Year</a>)</p> <h2>1. Cell Phone Plans</h2> <p>Do you really need that $80-a-month smartphone plan with unlimited data? Unless you work in social media or your smartphone is essential for your job (in which case, consider asking your company to provide a cell phone plan or look into writing it off on your taxes if you&rsquo;re self-employed), most people don&rsquo;t need a smartphone. I&rsquo;ve lost track of the number of people I&rsquo;ve heard complaining about the abysmal state of their finances and all the debt they have yet to pay off, and yet they are still paying for two iPhone plans per household. What if you saved yourself $40 a month and put that money towards paying down your debt? Consider a far less expensive family plan where calls between family phones are free. You may even be able to share with family members even if you don&rsquo;t live in the same household.</p> <h2>2. Internet</h2> <p>If the extent of your Internet usage is surfing the Internet, streaming Netflix movies, and sending emails, look into your Internet plan to see if you really need super-high-speed Internet. Your internet service provider might have a lower-speed plan that is sufficient for your needs but may save you $20 a month or more. Even one of the slower Internet speeds may be more than enough to stream movies and music &mdash; you may want to give it a try.&nbsp;</p> <p>By the way, if you were getting an introductory deal on your Internet that is expiring, call your provider and suggest (politely) that you want to cancel your service unless they can offer you a better price. You never know, they might extend the deal for you or slash a few bucks off your monthly bill.</p> <h2>3. Landline Phones</h2> <p>If you have a good cell phone plan, consider canceling your landline service. Alternatively, look into one of the Internet-based phone systems like Costco&rsquo;s Ooma system, Vonage, or Magic Jack. These VoIP phone systems feel just like landlines, have 911 support, offer inexpensive long-distance calls, and often cost just a few bucks a month (though there may be an upfront cost for the hardware). Personally, I use Google Voice, which is free (but doesn&rsquo;t offer 911 support), which I have connected via my router to a phone in my home &mdash; it works just like a landline and doesn&rsquo;t cost a penny.</p> <h2>4. Cable TV</h2> <p>I don&rsquo;t have cable TV, and I don&rsquo;t miss it.&nbsp; I can stream almost everything I want to watch through Internet sites like Hulu and Netflix, from sports to my favorite TV shows. If you must have TV, consider switching to basic cable and bundling your TV service with your Internet and phone services for a better deal.</p> <h2>5. Energy Bills</h2> <p>You can make significant savings in your energy bills by being more energy-efficient in your home. Your water heater and furnace are probably the biggest energy guzzlers. Insulate your water heater and turn down the house thermostat by a couple of degrees. Do laundry using cold water &mdash; your clothes will last longer, and you&rsquo;ll save energy. If you&rsquo;re buying a new appliance, look for the Energy Star logo, and see if you can get a rebate from your local water or electric company for getting a more efficient appliance. Oh, and your city may even pay you to let them cart away your old cruddy fridge, too (or you could sell it on Craigslist).</p> <h2>6. Doctor&rsquo;s Bills</h2> <p>If you have health insurance and you receive a bill from a medical provider, don&rsquo;t just blindly send a check. They may have neglected to bill your insurance or sent you a bill &ldquo;by accident.&rdquo; For instance, I received a bill from the California Prenatal Screening Program &mdash; they assumed I didn&rsquo;t have health insurance until I provided proof, even though I was tested through my doctor&rsquo;s office (which has my insurance information). Be sure you know how much your co-pays should be according to your insurance plan, and when in doubt, call to clear up any misunderstanding.&nbsp;</p> <p>By the way, going to your routine check-ups at your doctor or dentist is an important way to maintain your health and <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-things-you-do-to-save-money-that-end-up-costing-you-more">avoid bigger expenses in the long run</a>. You don&rsquo;t want an unfilled cavity to turn into a root canal, which means more pain and more money.</p> <h2>7. Coffee</h2> <p>If you spend $3.50 on a latte every day, that adds up to $1277.50 a year. At those prices, you could have an espresso machine at home and still save money! Save the coffee shop for special occasions, or limit yourself to once a week. Meanwhile, invest in a good-quality coffee maker at home for your morning java fix.</p> <h2>8. Groceries</h2> <p>The grocery bill is a significant chunk of your income every month. I&rsquo;ll be the first to admit that I am not as diligent at finding bargains as I&rsquo;d like. This year, my resolution is to clip coupons, look for deals, and to shrink my grocery budget by 20%. My first step is to create a coupon folder in which to store coupons so that I can find them when I need them.</p> <p>There are other things you can try too. Buy less meat and eat more vegetables; both your body and your wallet will thank you. Try growing, canning, and pickling your own produce. Cook from scratch instead of buying pre-seasoned or prepackaged foods. Buy generic brands.</p> <h2>9. Household Necessities</h2> <p>Almost anything can be cleaned up with baking soda and vinegar, which are cheap and natural alternatives to pricier commercial cleaners. Good for tasks including scrubbing baked-on food off dishes, cleaning the oven, washing windows, <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/naturally-get-rid-of-ants-in-your-kitchen">fending off ants</a>, <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-clean-silver-naturally">cleaning silver</a>, and brightening laundry, these two basics will have you pretty much set. As for other household necessities such as paper towels, over-the-counter medicines, trash bags, and toilet paper, opt for the generic brand and/or buy in bulk.</p> <h2>10. Credit Cards</h2> <p>Not everyone can handle having a credit card.&nbsp; If you can, be sure to pay off your balance every month to avoid being charged interest. If you&rsquo;re the forgetful type, consider setting up automatic payments through your bank (just be sure you have enough money in your account to pay your bill, or you&rsquo;ll be charged by your bank too). Don&rsquo;t get a credit card that you have to pay a yearly premium for &mdash; there are lots of free options that offer cash back, points, or other bonuses. By the way, if your credit card offers cash back, you may have to claim your cash back bonus in the mail. Be sure to do that to avoid losing the money you&rsquo;ve earned. If you can handle the temptation of having that plastic card in your pocket, credit cards can work in your favor and actually earn you money.</p> <p>In general, setting up automatic payment for all of your bills is a good idea, as long as you're sure you'll have the money in your account. You'll save on postage and avoid late fees if you forget to pay a bill. Also, some of your bills may be payable by credit card. If you pay your bills by credit card, and set your credit card to be paid off in full automatically, you can earn cash back on your bills too.</p> <p><em>How do you keep your expenses down every month?</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/10-monthly-bills-you-can-slash" class="sharethis-link" title="10 Monthly Bills You Can Slash" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/camilla-cheung">Camilla Cheung</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Budgeting Home cutting expenses lower bills monthly bills Fri, 06 Jan 2012 11:24:18 +0000 Camilla Cheung 855712 at http://www.wisebread.com Cable TV Is Here to Stay...for Now http://www.wisebread.com/cable-tv-is-here-to-stayfor-now <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/cable-tv-is-here-to-stayfor-now" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/bigstock_Three_friends_are_watching_TV_18927716-2.jpg" alt="Friends watching TV together" title="Friends watching TV together" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="141" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>The economy is in rough shape, and everyone wants to save a few bucks where they can. And thanks to the Internet, you can cut your cable bill without missing any of your favorite shows.</p> <p>But after doing some research and running the numbers, I realized that cutting cable won't go mainstream until someone comes up with an easy, convenient solution that gives couch potatoes what they want. Or people stop watching TV.</p> <p>Until then, cable is here to stay.</p> <p>There are tons of articles out there on how you should prepare for cutting your cable, but here&rsquo;s a quick rundown of what you need to do and how much it costs to make the switch. (See also: <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/now-its-easier-than-ever-to-cut-the-cable">Now It&rsquo;s Easier Than Ever to Cut the Cable</a>)</p> <h3>Check the Airwaves</h3> <p>The goal here is to replace all your shows by simply getting an antenna, so the first step is to see what you can get for free via the broadcast networks. That&rsquo;s ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and so on. Then head over to <a href="http://www.antennaweb.org/aw/Address.aspx">Antennaweb</a> and enter your address &mdash; it&rsquo;ll show you which channels you&rsquo;re likely to get over the air depending on where you live.</p> <p>If I were you, I&rsquo;d put all this into a handy spreadsheet to make things easier to track.</p> <p>So far so good &mdash; we haven&rsquo;t spent any money yet! But if you don't have one, you'll need to get an antenna. And if you want to get the broadcast channels in HD, you&rsquo;ll need you may also need to buy an HD tuner depending on what kind of TV you have.</p> <p><strong>Total Cost: </strong>$30 for the antenna and another $50 for the tuner (if you need it)</p> <h3>Stream On</h3> <p>Your spreadsheet is likely to have some shows that you can&rsquo;t get over the air. Visit <a href="http://www.clicker.com/">Clicker.com</a> to see where on the web you can stream them, or check out this <a href="http://www.cancelcable.com/db/showfinder.php">handy chart</a>.</p> <p>You may be able to find your shows for free if you&rsquo;re willing to wait a week or so, but if you want them right away, some will charge you &mdash; make sure you read the fine print.</p> <p><strong>Total Cost: </strong>Depends, $10&ndash;$20 a month</p> <h3>Do You DVR?</h3> <p>If you have a DVR in your cable box and you can&rsquo;t live without it, you&rsquo;ll have to find an alternative solution. Sure, there&rsquo;s TiVo, but the whole point is to cut out monthly bills. There are tons of great articles on <a href="http://lifehacker.com/298408/turn-your-windows-pc-into-a-media-center-powerhouse-on-the-cheap">how to turn your computer into a DVR</a>, but it takes some knowledge, some new hardware, and patience.</p> <p><strong>Total Cost: </strong>$100 and a fair amount of your time/sanity</p> <h3>Watching on TV</h3> <p>Sure, it&rsquo;s great you can stream so many shows to your computer, but you want to <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/massive-list-of-things-to-do-while-watching-tv">watch TV</a> on your TV. Cable is pretty good about that.</p> <p>You&rsquo;ll need a way to get what you&rsquo;re streaming showing on your TV. There are tons of options &mdash; Roku, Wii, X-Box 360, Apple TV, Slingbox, and the list goes on and on.</p> <p>If you already have one of these devices, you may be in luck. Odds are it won&rsquo;t have access to ALL the streaming services, but it&rsquo;s a start. Ideally, you have a setup that allows you to show anything you can bring up on your computer on your TV.</p> <p><strong>Total Cost: </strong>$50&ndash;$150</p> <h3>Your Internet Connection</h3> <p>The elephant in the room is your Internet connection. You might have a fast enough connection that all your shows look nice and crisp when you stream them online, but they may not. If you want to use your Internet connection to replace your cable, you might have to upgrade to a faster connection.</p> <p><strong>Total Cost: </strong>$15&ndash;20 a month</p> <h3>Your Savings</h3> <p>Once you run all those numbers you&rsquo;ll find that the savings might not be as significant as you thought.</p> <p>After doing all this work, I figured out I could cut my monthly bill from $92 to $60, and I'd have to shell out around $200 in one-time costs. That includes bumping up my Internet speed, buying the shows we can&rsquo;t get for free, and buying the hardware to get everything up and running.</p> <p>Thirty bucks a month might be worth it for some, but I'm guessing it's not enough for the masses to go through the hassle. You should run your own numbers to see if cutting cable is worth it for you.</p> <h3>What We Need</h3> <p>We need one easy-to-use/install product you can buy that allows you to get ANY of your shows. Until someone out there can do for television what iTunes did for music, most people will probably stick to cable &mdash; with good reason.</p> <p><em>Editor's note: Antenna information was updated since initial publication.</em></p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/cable-tv-is-here-to-stayfor-now" class="sharethis-link" title="Cable TV Is Here to Stay...for Now" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/carlos-portocarrero">Carlos Portocarrero</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Entertainment Technology cutting cable lower bills streaming tv shows Thu, 29 Sep 2011 10:36:13 +0000 Carlos Portocarrero 716136 at http://www.wisebread.com Lower Your Credit Card Interest Rate and Reduce Your Phone Bill, Immediately and Easily http://www.wisebread.com/lower-your-credit-card-interest-rate-and-reduce-your-phone-bill-immediately-and-easily <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/lower-your-credit-card-interest-rate-and-reduce-your-phone-bill-immediately-and-easily" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="http://www.wisebread.com/files/fruganomics/imagecache/250w/blog-images/reduce%20bills.JPG" alt="cell phone" title="cell phone" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="188" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p class="MsoNormal">Are your <a target="_blank" href="http://www.wisebread.com/top-seven-reasons-why-i-use-my-credit-card-for-everything">credit card</a> interest rates getting to you? Are those monthly <a target="_blank" href="http://www.wisebread.com/frugal-ways-to-stay-in-touch-on-the-road">cell phone</a> bills a pain in the wallet? How about <a target="_blank" href="http://www.wisebread.com/seven-monthly-expenses-we-dont-realize-we-dont-need">cable TV</a>? Internet? Even the power bill? Would you like to reduce these charges without the hassle of changing suppliers? Read on, my frugal friend.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal">As <a target="_blank" href="http://www.wisebread.com/5-personal-finance-tips-you-dont-always-hear-about">Tisha recently pointed out</a>, most suppliers will not be forthcoming with you about less expensive suppliers in the marketplace or new options within the same company that could save you money and be a better fit for your needs. But this does not mean that you aren&rsquo;t entitled to save this money. You just have to <a target="_blank" href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-travel-in-style-for-free">ask for it</a>.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Once my contract was up with my cell phone provider, I did a little shopping around for new plans. I didn&rsquo;t actually <i>intend </i>to change carriers; I was just doing some research. As a matter of course, I was able to find another carrier that on the surface appeared to provide a better deal.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p></o:p>Armed with information, I toddled off to the telephone and called my cell phone supplier. In a friendly and conversational tone, I suggested that there were other providers that could match or beat my current plan. In the next breath I said that I would prefer to keep my business with this company, since I believe in loyalty and since they have given me no reason to leave. I finished off with the big question: <b>&ldquo;What Can You Do For Me?&rdquo;</b> And then I let them talk.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p></o:p>On that day, I received $150 towards a new phone, 100 free minutes per month, and a substantial reduction in my monthly charges. All simply by asking.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal">After this experience, I thought &ldquo;this is too easy!&rdquo; and looked for other ways to save money.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p></o:p>I called my credit card company with a similar pitch and ended with &ldquo;What Can You Do For Me?&rdquo; I hung up the phone with my annual fee eliminated and my interest rate reduced by 6%. Again, simply by asking.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p></o:p>I repeated the same procedure with my cable tv company, and walked away with a cable and internet package that far surpassed what I was previously getting, saving me over $40/month between the two.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal">Reducing your bills and getting <a target="_blank" href="http://www.wisebread.com/how-to-get-a-discount-every-time">discounts</a> is really as simple as asking for it. When I had to get new tires for my car the other day, I was quoted a price and immediately asked if they could give me a discount for paying with cash. They reduced their rates by $10 and threw in free installation, rotation, and balancing.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><strong>If you want to save money on your bills, here are a few pointers to get you started:</strong></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <h3><b>Do Your Research.</b></h3> <p>By understanding the going rates across the market, you are in a better position to evaluate both what you are currently paying, and what is being offered to you when you call. Knowledge equals negotiating power.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <h3><b>Be Prepared to Walk</b>.</h3> <p class="MsoNormal">If you are calling with a &ldquo;holier than thou&rdquo; tone of voice, suggesting that another carrier will give you a better deal, then you need to be prepared to walk if you really believe the other supplier is better. Calling with a bluff is bad form. Besides which, if you aren&rsquo;t offered a deal and you say you are canceling your plan, a whole new wave of &ldquo;please stay, we need your business&rdquo; discounts sometimes become available as a result.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <h3><b>Ask for the Manager.</b></h3> <p>Sometimes the customer service representative you are speaking to doesn&rsquo;t have the power to provide the discount you would like. Thank them for their help, tell them that you have no problems whatsoever with how they have dealt with you, but that you would like to speak to a manager to see if you can strike a better deal. They are usually cordially helpful in this manner, and the further up you travel on the company food chain, the deeper the discount possibilities are.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <h3><b>Be Nice! </b></h3> <p class="MsoNormal">Even if you call to complain, be nice. You stand a much better chance of achieving what you want by treating the customer service representative like a human being. I once called to lodge a complaint about an online order mistake, and because I was nice about it, the representative (who had obviously endured a brow-beating day of nasty complaints) was so overtly surprised that our conversation was pleasant that she sent me $40 in coupons in addition to fixing the problem right away. <o:p></o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <h3><b>Anything is Discountable.</b></h3> <p class="MsoNormal">Truly &ndash; you can negotiate just about anything. Just because a website advertises specific rate packages does not mean that you cannot bend the rules. I recently signed up for internet access with a new supplier; in so doing I researched the packages available online, and then called to ask if they had any promotions available. Between the two people I talked to, I saved over $400 in posted connection fees, received 50% off the posted monthly rates, and got a $10 monthly reduction in my telephone bill too. None of these discounts were posted online, and I don't believe they would have become available to me if I had not asked.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <h3><b>Target Suppliers you have been with for a While. </b></h3> <p class="MsoNormal">The longer you have been with a supplier, the better a case you have for getting a discount to stay with them. Don&rsquo;t be afraid to point out how long you have given the company business before asking what they can do for you.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p class="MsoNormal">I do believe that the &ldquo;squeaky wheel gets the grease&rdquo; as the adage goes. But I also don&rsquo;t believe that the squeaky wheel has to be a whining, moaning, bitching one. You can pipe up, ask for a discount, and get exactly what you want quite effectively using these tips above and by keeping a smile on your face. Try it &ndash; and reduce your credit card interest rate and phone bills in the meantime.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/lower-your-credit-card-interest-rate-and-reduce-your-phone-bill-immediately-and-easily" class="sharethis-link" title="Lower Your Credit Card Interest Rate and Reduce Your Phone Bill, Immediately and Easily" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/nora-dunn">Nora Dunn</a> and published on <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="http://www.wisebread.com/taxonomy/term/"> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Frugal Living Life Hacks Budgeting Consumer Affairs Credit Cards Lifestyle Shopping cable tv changing suppliers credit card interest rates discounts lower bills pay less phone bills reduce bills save money Mon, 02 Feb 2009 21:11:43 +0000 Nora Dunn 2805 at http://www.wisebread.com