January Money Diet Day 19 – Reduce Monthly Expenses

Dog Wash

Photo: Dogymho

Good morning, and happy Day 19!

It’s been gratifying to hear from many of you who enjoyed the weekend decluttering challenge. You inspired me to clear out some closets and cabinets, and I donated a trunkload of clothes and dishes on Sunday. Even though organizing will likely be a life-long challenge here, I’m going to focus on how good it feels to have some tidy spaces and a little more room.

As you know, this year’s January Money Diet includes 5 extra challenges to help strengthen our relationship with money. Everyone who completes all five challenges will be entered in a special prize drawing at the end of the month. Today, we’re going to dive into Challenge #4.

In case you missed them, here are links to the first three challenges:

Challenge #1 – Give 31 things away.

Challenge #2 – Figure your net worth.

Challenge #3 Do something to earn an extra $25 or more this month.

Are you ready for our next adventure?

Challenge #4 – Reduce At Least One Expense

Keeping our monthly overhead as low as possible is an important savings strategy. The expenses we pay month after month, year after year, can really add up. Companies love to commit us to long contracts and automatic monthly payments, so we need to be vigilant about evaluating our ongoing expenses.

Look at each of your regular monthly expenses and ask yourself whether you’re truly getting your money’s worth from your hard-earned dollars. Could you eliminate something and pocket the savings each month?

Telephone and Wireless Fees

By now you probably know many people who have cancelled their home telephone service, and simply use their mobile phone for calls. If you still have a land line, how many quality calls do you receive, and how many telemarketing calls do you receive? Can you still justify the cost?

Are you using all of the data you pay for on your wireless bill? Would it be cheaper to reduce the usage on your plan and pay the occasional overage fee if needed? Have you comparison-shopped recently to review carriers and plans?

What about your internet service? Have you checked out competitive plans and packages lately? I need to call our cable company and see how their price and speed compares to the service we have with our phone company. The last time I checked, I couldn’t justify the extra expense for higher speed but the market and pricing may have changed since then.

The High Price of Entertainment

Are you happy with your cable or satellite TV bill? Break down your monthly bill and divide it by the number of shows you watch. Is it really worth it? Are you paying cable box rental fees for TVs in other rooms that you don’t watch?

Could you completely cut the cable cord? Some people don’t pay a nickle for cable television, yet still enjoy plenty of free stations with a digital antenna. Here’s a review of best digital antennas by Tom’s Guide, and one of the top-rated models costs just $23.

Many of your favorite programs may be available online via the network’s website, and YouTube often features clips or full programs of popular shows. You might also be able to connect your laptop or mobile device to your TV and watch shows from your favorite networks right on the big screen. Tom’s Guide has straightforward advice about streaming video from common devices to your TV, either using a cord or doing so wirelessly.

Are you paying a monthly fee for a DVR? Make one yourself with a hard drive that interfaces with your TV signal. Here’s how.

A service like Netflix or Hulu might be a less expensive option for streaming entertainment. We currently have basic cable and Netflix, and that seems to work for us.

We also sometimes borrow DVDs of movies and TV shows free from the library, or pay an occasional small fee to Redbox to watch a recent movie.

Other Ways to Save

Do you subscribe to newspapers and magazines? If you find you’re regularly recycling publications without reading them, perhaps it’s time to do your reading online or check out publications free from the library. Our library offers free downloads of digital magazines via Zinio.

Does your dog go to the groomer regularly? Learn how to do it yourself, and save both time and money.

Could you cut your own lawn and let the lawn service go? (What about eliminating your lawn altogether and replacing it with hardy clover, xeriscaping — or edible plants?)

If you belong to a gym, are you going often enough to justify the expense? (If you’re stuck with a long-term contract, you’re not alone. Check out this recent Washington Post article about how gyms count on attrition to stay profitable.) Could you ride your bike, run, walk or work out at home?

Spend an hour doing the math with your health insurance plan’s various offerings. The true cost for the convenience of that small $30 co-pay for doctor’s visits can often be quite expensive. If you’re healthy and generally only go to the doctor a couple of times a year, you might save hundreds of dollars by increasing the co-pay on doctor’s visits and prescriptions.

How About You?

Challenge #4 is to go through your regular monthly expenses with a ruthless eye, and find something to trim or cancel. We’d love to hear your experience in the Comments section of this page.

Hugs and happy saving,

The signature for Eliza Cross

About Eliza Cross

Eliza Cross is a full-time writer and the author of a dozen books about food and home design. She has been blogging about simplicity and sustainable living since 2006.

January Money Diet Day 19 – Reduce Monthly Expenses

  • Virginia

    We bartered with friends for some elk meat this month. It is enough to lower our monthly grocery bill for the next 6 months!

  • Amy

    This was hard since we have already cut cable, use bargin pay as you go cell phones, and only hire things we are incaple of doing…I did call internet carrier and asked how I could reduce my bill, they gave me $10 off per month for next year, already have heat set at 65…. Don’t want to cut landline yet, but do have the cheapest plane. Also bought a groupon for oil change, planning for next month.

  • Colette

    I already have things really trimmed back. I don’t have a cell phone, don’t use a debit card, have let my hair grow long and don’t have hairdresser bills, pay only $22 monthly for internet and cable combined, let my car go uninsured for two months at a time to save on insurance & gas, cut the Costco annual fee from executive to regular membership, sell extra eggs from my backyard hens for $4 per dozen, don’t smoke, drink, go for coffee or eat out, have no newspaper or magazine subscriptions, and, thankfully, have no medical, cancer insurance, etc. payments because of our socialized medical here. I recently found out that age 55+ qualify for 20% off every Tuesday at our local drug store. I plan to postpone purchases until discount days at this and a few other stores. There are several monthly discounts to make note of and participate in for necessary purchases!

  • Helen Shaw

    Oh this challenge has been the hardest and taken all my resolve. I have been waiting for my mobile phone contact to end in order to reduce my monthly payment. I’m going to be about £30 a month better off. Snag is I have been coveting the latest iPhone for ages (mine is 2 generations old) as it has a better camera. Photos are a passion of mine and I’m constantly snapping away. After a great deal of soul searching I have resolved to keep my phone for another year and save the money – well use the money against my credit card balance. It’s the right thing to do and to be debt free would be wonderful.

  • Kelly

    I review a bill each month already so this was a hard challenge. I decided to geomap my “casual spending” to see where money was leaking out of my life. It was a real shock! I pictured it like this – if I had to walk 10km to gather a bucket of water and 10km to walk it home, I would expect to spill a little, drink a little, splash a little on my face to cool down and share a little with a fellow traveller in need. I would not arrive home with a completely full bucket, but I would be very unhappy to arrive home with an empty or nearly-empty bucket. Yet I work all week and the “discretionary money” bucket was often almost empty by the end of the week! By mapping where and how much I spent, I was able to find some ways to plug the leaks 🙂 Fewer coffees, fewer snacks, etc.

  • Sara

    I got a small reduction in my monthly gym fee through a partnership it had formed with my work place.

  • Kimberly

    I do not have a dvr, We cut it out and that saves a little, can’t afford to break the contract but they let me do that.So far I am 4 for 4 on challenges. Really trying hard.

  • Elizabeth

    I canceled a life insurance policy I no longer needed – my circumstances are far different than when I got it.

  • Lynn Louise

    I call our cable company every 3 months to reinstate the lower price that they give me for 3 months. We don’t have a landline, only cell phones. My husband just worked on our Auto Ins before the end of the year. We mow our own lawn and I quit the expensive gym membership years ago. I can walk for free. I also have gotten rid of the magazine subscriptions. Just yesterday I received one in the mail asking me to sign up and it went right to the trash can. I will check on our internet prices tomorrow as there may be room for savings in that category.

  • Annette

    I changed checking accounts at the bank and saved $29.95 a month in bank fees. In order to do this I had to move some money from my savings account into this new checking account to keep a fairly high minimum monthly balance but it will be a big savings in the long run. It is also a form of forced savings because I know the dollar amount in that account can’t go below a certain value or I’ll have to pay bank fees. This new account also comes with a free safety deposit box rental and the yearly fee is waived on my credit card and it has a bunch of other perks so now I don’t pay ANY bank fees!!! Yeah! Next, I’m going to tackle my cable bill.

  • Mary Ann

    My Christmas present this year was a Nespresso plus milk frother, I know – a luxury. But I haven’t been to Starbucks since and that was becoming an $8.00 a day habit because breakfast was easier there. Now I save my health, $6.00 bucks a day and lots of time. It has also helped my mental health, I use the saved time for prayer and meditation. Win win.

  • Vesta

    Taking a “Sr. Driving” class – used to be known as 55-Alive, to get a 10% discount on my car insurance rates. My job already covers my internet and phone service. Don’t have cable.

  • Kim

    I am pretty much bare bones on everything. But the one thing I will check into is the auto insurance.

  • Petra

    We just have Netflix and it works for us. I wish we could cancel our landline, but we have a security system.
    Tomorrow I call my car insurance and see if I can get a better rate.

  • Lynette

    I know we are currently overpaying on our phone/internet package time to find a better deal this month is ideal with the rollout of NBN in our area.

  • IMHO this is the single biggest thing you can do if you want to improve your financial picture. We have a tendency to take on monthly expenses without really thinking about them, because after all, it’s only $X per month! But that stuff really adds up, and then once you’ve got those recurring expenses, we tend to look at them as “fixed” and unchangeable.

    But if you can invest a little time and energy into reducing those recurring expenses, you’re one step closer to having a life that’s “frugal by default” and once you do that, soooo many things become possible. It’s sooo much easier to save money by making a few major decisions that will pay dividends for many years, than it is to agonize over the price of apples every time you’re at the grocery store – or any of those decisions that have to be made every day.

    So my goal for the year in this department is to reevaluate my auto insurance and see if I can’t find a better deal. I only drive about 600 miles per year (yup, you read that right) but I still pay around $40/month for insurance – that’s nearly a dollar a mile! There’s gotta be a better deal out there somewhere!

  • Mila

    Last week I called my cellular phone company and was able to save $77 monthly by cutting my usage plan down to what I’m actually using every month. That’s over $900 a year! Whoowee!!

  • Stacey

    I just called my cable company and I will be saving 30$ a month for the next 12 months. That was easy…

  • Jessica

    When we started the money diet, we went through this exercise and it has been well worth it! Changed wireless carriers – saved $80 month; canceled cable and only use Netflix/antenna – saved $150 month minus a small investment in antennas. Car/home insurance as well as where we grocery shop are next on my list to evaluate.

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