Challenge #4 – Reduce One Expense

Cut expenses and save

Good morning, and happy Day 19!

Just a quick reminder that you still have time to participate in the mid-month weigh-in and be eligible to win a copy of the fabulous book The Prosperous Heart–Creating a Life of “Enough” by Julia Cameron. Just leave a comment on the Check In page by midnight MST tonight, and you’ll be automatically entered.

You’ll enjoy reading everyone’s progress and comments. You are all accomplishing so many amazing things this month! Thanks to Jamie, Lyn, Jessica, Annette, Sara, Susan T., Linda, Povy, Meg, Annie, Cindy, Carolyn, Margaret, Jan, Hilary, Nancy, Betty, Peggy, Steph and Colette for checking in and inspiring us all.

Now, let’s dive in to Challenge #4.

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.

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

Challenge #1 – Give 31 things away.

Challenge #2 – Figure out 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?

We Finally Cut the Cable Cord

I wish I would have done this a year ago, but we finally cancelled our Comcast cable this year. We were paying $60 a month for a very basic family package that included a couple favorite channels like Food Network and HGTV. But we rarely watched the shows when they aired. When I did turn on the TV, it was usually to watch national or local news.

I decided to try a digital antenna, which cost $22 on Amazon, to see how it worked before I made the big move to cancel cable. I set it up with one of our TVs and was amazed at the quality of the picture. I had to move the antenna twice to get all of the local channels clearly, but once I found the perfect spot it has worked great. A bonus is that the picture is high definition, without paying the extra cost that the cable company in our area charges for HD.

Then I called Comcast and began the process of cancelling. The rep tried very hard to offer us several other packages and options. The total time for the call was about 30 minutes. Next, I had to remove the box and all the cords, drive over to the Comcast store, and return them. That process went very smoothly and took less than an hour. Comcast even sent me a refund check for a few days’ service since I cancelled before the end of the billing period.

Once the cable was cancelled I signed up for Hulu, which streams current programming. We already had Netflix. Our total monthly cost for Netflix and Hulu is $22 per month.

We will save $456 this year by letting go of cable, and we feel like we have many more entertainment options than we did before.

Research Your Options

Do you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth 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? 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 Sling TV, Netflix or Hulu might be a less expensive option for streaming entertainment.

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.

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.

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.

15 comments to Challenge #4 – Reduce One Expense

  • Catherine Godfrey

    I installed a low pressure shows head & it’s saved us about $5 a month. Not much, but every bit counts

  • Nancy

    I love to ski. This month I brought my lunch to the ski hill each time I went. Shared lunch with my friends. We had a big “picnic” each time which was fun. Everyone seemed to bring something different.

  • Melissa

    Cancelled monthly membership at carwash. Will look at one bill per month for rest of year. Homeowners insurance is next to be looked at.

  • Lyn

    It was really hard, but we finally fired our housekeeper – – We hired her when she was let go from her cleaning job at my husband’s hospital and she has been with us for 10 years – – loyal and loving, but increasingly forgetful, it was time for her to move on. Amazing what not paying her every week adds up to over the course of a year. Wow! And, in all honesty, our house is cleaner now that we are doing it – – my daughter is stepping up and vacuuming her room and also helping with the laundry more. Phew!

    Our next challenge: How can we reduce our cable etc. bills – – We hardly ever watch, but every now and then, love watching special sporting events, etc. I hate how everything is bundled. Anyway, that’s February’s project.

  • We just changed the kids’ music lessons to biweekly (from weekly), thus cutting the bill in half. We’ll see how it works (i.e., if they can maintain their drive to practice.) But it’s a significant expense, and this was how they wanted to contribute to our money diet.

  • Annette

    I did this last year when I did the January money diet. I contacted my insurance company and reviewed all my policies and got my rates reduced a small amount. I just called them again and I am still getting the best possible rate. I think that my bundle of cable internet and home phone is too high at $139 a month but I am locked into a contract until March. When this contract ends I will definitely be cutting back on this bill. I will get rid of many of the cable tv channels that I never watch and possibly my home phone.

  • Judy

    This was a bit of a challenge, as my husband is forever looking at ways to reduce unnecessary expenses. We receive our annual car insurance bill each year in January. Both of us are over age 55 and qualify for a premium reduction if we complete a qualifying 8-hour driver safety course.We registered for the next available course and will be completing the course in early February. Our insurance company reduced our annual premiums by $60.00. This will apply to future years as well.

  • Sara

    My boyfriend cancelled his HBO-subscription, thus, challenged completed for us as a team. 😉

  • Colette

    We only have internet for $23 per month, 2 cell phones, and 1 gym pass. Our cell phones are U.S. numbers as we found that T-Mobile is the only company that doesn’t charge roaming fees going back and forth to Canada. Because our grown children all use Canadian cell phones, they can’t phone us or accept our calls. The landline must stay! But, we don’t have cable, Netflix, lawn care or snow removal fees, no subscriptions…it has already been fine-tuned. We decided tonight that we will keep our “eating out” to just special occasions, business meetings, or travel.

  • Betty

    Eliza – I got the “101 things to do with beans” today. I’m so excited – I can’t wait to try the recipes. Thank-You SO much! We really couldn’t think of anything to eliminate in our lives – we started that after the January diet in 2016. We cut out all extra channels on our cable – placed LED light bulbs – unplugged every appliance not currently in use – I’m like the “electrical police” keeping lake lights off when not in use – we keep our temp low and wear sweatshirts – we do all our own lawn care, including snow plowing – I cut my husband’s hair – buy very few clothes – often buy them at the thrift store- there may be others I’m not thinking of – we do not feel at all deprived – it’s like a game for us and it works because we are debt-free and have a good amount in savings and investment accounts. I love your web site because it so closely reflects our lifestyle. Thanks for all your work at inspiring all of us. Betty

  • Marie

    We had already cut Direct tv a year ago and using an antenna. We now have cut our home phone saving 25.00 a month. Only salesman call most of the time on it. Just using our cell phone.

  • maggi

    i have a bundled cable service that costs $170 a month. i dont have a car or many other expenses so i just cant justify cutting the cord. im retired and am a couch potato. certain tv shows, sports, and the internet are too important to lose.

  • Susan Trimble

    We are dropping the movie channels on cable. (I would drop it, but my husband wants it). He is the only one who reads the newspaper (I get the news on the internet and tv). One thing I love to do several times a week is go out for breakfast. This is going to change. I will need to think of other things to try. Thank you for the suggestions.

  • Julie

    I love the idea of cutting the cable but where I live they “bundle” the cable and internet. Is your internet high cost?

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