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:
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,