Cutting ancillary expenses is one of the most effective ways to improve your bottom line. The bills 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.
Keeping our monthly overhead as low as possible is an important savings strategy for our family that helps me be able to work from home.
Making adjustments to long-term contracts can seem like a hassle, but usually it just requires a little action to make the change — and the payoff can be amazing.
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Monthly Expenses Examples
One day after school last fall, my son and I went to the T-Mobile store and switched our service from our previous carrier. The process took less than an hour. We got a much better plan with unlimited data, and the bill is $60 less per month. That’s $720 in savings a year, for one hour of effort!
Think about this: Every dollar you can reduce from your monthly expenses means less pressure and more money available for saving, giving, and doing all the extraordinary things you dream about.
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 some ancillary expenses and pocket the savings each month?
I double-dog dare you…NO! I triple-dog dare you to figure out a way to cut at least one of your monthly expenses during this January Money Diet month. Here are some pain-free ideas:
Cut the Cable Cord
A couple years ago, we cancelled our cable TV service. We were paying $65 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 top-selling digital antenna (around $30) to see how it worked before I made the big move to cancel cable. When I received it, I couldn’t believe that a flat piece of black plastic could possibly bring in a good signal. However, 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.
Once I had the antenna working, I called Comcast and began the process of cancelling our cable service. 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 canceled I signed up for Hulu, which streams current programming for $5.99 a month. We already had Netflix for $13.99 a month. Our total monthly cost for Netflix and Hulu is $19.98 per month.
Finally, since we have Amazon Prime I got a Fire TV stick. We use it to stream the Netflix and Hulu through our TV, and it gives us access to a ton of additional programming along with the ability to rent a movie instantly.
We now have far, far more choices for programming. We now save about $500 each year by letting go of cable, and don’t miss it at all.
Research Your Entertainment 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? 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. My daughter has been quite happy with Chromecast, which streams content from her iPhone to her TV.
We also sometimes borrow DVDs of movies and TV shows free from the library
Telephone and Wireless Fees
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 called our internet provider, CenturyLink, and just by asking if I qualified for any discounts they lowered our rate by $10 a month for being a loyal customer.
Avoid Insurance Cost Creep
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.
An HSA plan can be another great way to save on premiums, and funding your health savings account offers tax-advantaged peace of mind against unexpected medical expenses.
If you don’t have health insurance through an employer, like me, and are paying exorbitant rates for coverage, you might want to check out a health cost sharing plan.
When was the last time you comparison shopped for your auto and/or homeowner’s insurance? Rates creep up over time, and it’s a good idea to periodically shop around and make sure you’re getting the best value for your hard-earned money.
In general, bundling your homeowner or renter’s insurance and auto insurance with the same carrier will save you money.
Also, if your auto insurance company offers a tracking discount you might want to consider it. I wrote about my experiences in this article, “Should You Let Your Car Insurance Company Track You to Save Money?“
Other Ways to Save
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 some or all of your lawn 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? Could you ride your bike, run, walk or work out at home?
Research whether you might be able to refinance your home or auto loan at a lower interest rate.
Shop around for the best deal on your alarm system monitoring.
Cancel your monthly storage unit fee and deal with the things inside this month.
Find a cheaper alternative to your monthly music subscription.
Call and request a lower rate from your credit card carriers. Or it might make sense to consolidate your outstanding credit cards with one lower interest rate card.
How About You?
Your challenge is to go through your regular monthly expenses with a ruthless eye, and find an ancillary expense to trim or cancel. We’d love to hear your experience over in the Money Diet Community Facebook Group.
And if you have any ideas to add to this list, I would love to hear from you!
P.S. If you use Pinterest to save articles and ideas, here’s a handy pin: