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Most people are looking for ways to save in their everyday lives. One thing I've found, however, is that a lot of time they focus on ways of saving money that require spending money. What I mean by that is that they find ways to get discounts on things, but in order to get those things they have to spend money.
Today I thought I would take a slightly different vein. I want to write a few ways to save money – on things and services you likely already have, or can't get by without. In other words, you're already spending the money, so why not save some money while you're at it?
How I Save.. On All Our Regular Bills
There are certain services that we use at our house that we would likely pay for no matter what. Because of that it's tempting to just pay those bills, and not worry about trying to get a discount. It's easy to just let them slide from month to month. The problem is that you can likely save hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on those regular monthly costs.
So one of my biggest suggestions for how to save is to find ways to cut costs on your regular monthly bills that you'd be paying for anyway.
How I Save… On Communications Costs
One of the areas where we've saved the most money over the past couple of years is on our communications costs. We've saved on everything from our cell phone bill and home phone costs, to our cost for our mobile hotspot.
- Home Phone: For our home phone we were paying for an old fashioned land-line, but after doing some research we realized we could keep our home phone, but without having to pay $43/month as we were. We switched to Ooma VOIP phone provider for our landline, and now we pay about $4.50/month instead. In the end we have more features as well! Over 2 years with Ooma we've saved in excess of $700!
- Cell Phone: We switched from a traditional contract cell phone provider years ago, and instead went with a pre-paid cell provider. We used and were happy with Virgin Mobile for many years, but in the past few months we switched to cell phone service with Republic Wireless -and couldn't be happier. In the end we're saving hundreds every year by making the switch.
- Mobile Hotspot: In the past I paid for a mobile hotspot so that I could have internet on the go with my laptop, tablet and phone (without paying for mobile data). The hotspot I originally had was a pretty good deal, but I still paid about $35/month for service. Then I discovered a mobile hotspot from a service called FreedomPop, where you get 500MB of free data every month. I jumped on board and have saved hundreds by switching.
- Home Internet: While we haven't done this one yet, but you can also get home internet for free from FreedomPop as well. It may not be ideal if you stream a lot of video, if you're just checking email and surfing the web it might work fine for you. You could go from paying $50-100 for internet, down to nothing!
How I Save.. On Housing Costs
Another area that we often don't even consider negotiating or finding savings is when it comes to our homes. If you look, however, there are plenty of places to save.
- Refinance your house: If the mortgage rates have gone down since you purchased your home, it may be time to consider refinancing. We dropped over a point on our interest rate the last time we refinanced and ended up saving thousands over the life of the loan.
- Find lower cost homeowner's insurance: If you let it ride your homeowner's insurance policy costs can trend upward over the years, with no discernable reason. We shopped around for new homeowner's insurance a couple of years ago and ended up saving hundreds a year, for better coverage!
- Downsize or move: If you're paying too much for your home, one way to cut your costs significantly is to just downsize your home, or move to a less expensive area.
- Remove added fees: Sometimes people will find that they're still paying PMI (private mortgage insurance) on their mortgage, even though they have a loan to value ratio where they no longer need it. If you don't need it, ask your lender to remove it!
How I Save… On Utility Bills
Another big money drain for most households is in their utility bills. We've found a few ways to cut back on costs.
- Get a programmable thermostat: We save every year by having a Nest programmable thermostat that automatically senses when we're home, and when we're not – and adjust temperatures based on our usage to save us money. The average annual savings, according to Nest, $173.
- Turn down the hot water heater: 14-25% of your energy bills every year typically can be traced back to your hot water heater. What most people don't realize, however, is that you can turn the temperature down on your water heater, and still have the water be plenty warm. Every 10 degrees you lower it you’ll save 3-5% on your bill – just don't turn it down below 120 degrees or bacteria can grow.
- Do regular home maintenance: You can save money on your utility bills by doing regular home maintenance. Make sure you're changing out furnace filters on a regular basis, cleaning your AC condenser coils outside. Other regular home maintenance tasks will save by keeping pricey home repairs at bay.
- Unplug unused appliances: To avoid phantom energy drain, unplug unused appliances.
How I Save… On Entertainment Costs
Most people are paying for some sort of premium TV package, or something along those lines. There are ways to save on your entertainment costs as well.
- Negotiate with your cable TV provider: If you do your research you can often get your cable TV provider to offer you a better deal. If not, you can always switch to another provider, as long as you're not under contract.
- Cancel cable and use an antenna to get free HDTV: If you want to see some real savings you may want to consider buying a nice HDTV antenna, canceling your cable TV subscription, and switch to just watching TV via the over-the-air broadcasts that you can get in most areas. In my area I can get 35+ strong HDTV channels using my Mohu Leaf antenna or SMARTenna from Channel Master.
- Use an over-the-air DVR to record shows: Some people object to canceling cable because they've grown accustomed to their cable company's DVR for recording shows. Now you can get some awesome options for recording over-the-air HDTV programming like the Tablo TV DVR, or the Channel Master DVR+. The only difference? No or low monthly fees. Full Tablo TV review here.
- Use streaming services instead of cable TV: Instead of paying for cable you can pay a low monthly cost for streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime or Hulu+. Even if you decide to pay for an entire season of a premium HBO show or something else, you'll usually come out ahead.
So there you go, ways to save on your regular bills. I'm sure there are a ton more ways to save, but the ideas above are just meant to get you started.