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Money-Saving Mama: Tips to trim bills in the New Year

Posted: January 8, 2014 - 11:19am

Are you looking to trim your budget this year? Have you thought of all of the different ways to do this? Once you have an idea what you have, then you can have a better idea of what you can cut out or cut down on.

First, write down a list of all of your bills in the form of what they are, when they are due and how much they are. If you have some that fluctuate, you can write out a range or the higher amount (and be thankful when it is the lower amount).

This will include your household bills, credit cards if you have them, car and home insurance and any other bills you may have from time to time.

After doing this, it is time to dissect these bills. You can call each place to try to reduce your bill. If you have cable, call and try to negotiate a lower rate. If you have to cut out some things to get it lower, then entertain that thought.

If you are feeling daring, cut out cable altogether and spend a few extra dollars now to save much more later by buying a good antenna for your television and then a streaming box, such as the Roku or Rabbit.

This will work with high speed wireless Internet, so you need to have that installed. Negotiate your Internet as well. If you have home phone service you never use, cancel it and just have your cell phones. If you use your home phone service and never really use your cell phone but keep it for emergencies, find a plan that you can buy just the minutes you will use and not pay a large amount monthly for minutes you never use.

You can buy a prepaid phone from many companies and when the minutes run out then you buy more. This is much more economical for those who don’t really use a cell phone.

Whichever electric and gas provider you use – although negotiating with them isn’t something that I have seen done – you can call them for an energy audit and see if they will do one free of charge. This is a program where they send someone to your home to test certain areas and items that would be a drain on your energy.

This could be drafty windows and doors, ducts that need to be insulated and things like this. If you have this done and take care of some of the items that they recommend, you could save a good amount in the long run by cutting your future bills down.

With credit cards and anything that you have that has an interest rate, the first thing you want to do is to pull out a copy of your bill so you will have that to refer back to. Locate your interest rate and see what you are paying. From there, call and see if you can get a lower interest rate. If the customer service representative is unable to help you with this, ask to speak to a supervisor.

While I do not advocate switching cards to transfer balances just to get a lower rate, if you have a very high interest rate and they are unwilling to negotiate your rate, then switching may just be what you have to do. If you are trying to get your credit cards paid off but don’t seem to be making any headway, the best way to start is to know what you have.

Write out a list of your credit cards, their interest rate, due date and minimum amount due. You need to tackle them one by one, paying more on one than the others until that one is paid off and then taking the amount from that card that you paid off and adding it to another credit card until it is paid off and so on. To see what I mean, if you look up “debt snowball calculator” online and plug in your numbers. It will help you decide what you can pay to get your debt paid off once and for all.

When it comes to insurance, it is always good to check around. You generally get a better deal if your cars, house and anything else that you own is in one place, so if it isn’t, you need to check into doing this. You also want to check with various companies and see what their rates are versus what is covered.

Sometimes when it comes to insurance, the cheapest isn’t always the best. While it is understood that having the minimum coverage is sometimes all someone can afford, check around and see what the best coverage for your situation is. Sometimes you can be with an agent for years and never really think to check and see if better coverage is out there, either with that same agent or with another company. You could save hundreds a year by doing this.

Then there is the idea of saving on your daily items, such as groceries, entertainment and more. First, start with coupons. If you can use coupons on items that you normally buy, do. Buy items when they are on sale and when you need them.

Don’t let items go to waste, therefore wasting your money. If you have to, write the expiration date in big numbers where you can see it so you will make sure to use that item before it is expired. When it comes to things like going out to eat, you can look online for places that have “kids eat free” days, certain happy hour pricing, and things like that.

There are many places that have coupons that you can use. You can also sign up on different restaurant Web sites for coupons, birthday and anniversary clubs, etc. They will send you e-mails for free food on those dates. For the movies, look at matinee prices, wait for a while and catch it on DVD if you can, or join one of the movie clubs so you get discounted tickets or free food when you do go.

For clothing purchases there are many options. There are always the thrift and consignment stores where you can get clothes for a fraction of the cost, even being able to find items with the original sale tag on them. If that is not your thing, then there are many places that have loyalty cards to receive coupons and discounts. Many stores will also have coupons in the newspaper that you can use to get your clothing at a discount, even coupons that can be used with sale items. In the Sunday paper you can find many store ads so you can see what is on sale and if there are any coupons available. As you can see, there is a trend; it involves sales and coupons.

This is going to be your biggest way to save money when shopping, no matter what it is for.

Take a few moments here and there or a whole day and work on some of these items and you might just be surprised at how much you can save. You might even want to write out beside each item as you go along how much you are reducing your bill by and tally it up at the end so it will give you a boost. There is no better way to start your finances off this year than by reducing them and therefore keeping more in your wallet.

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