If there is anything good that has come out of the recession, it’s that Americans seem to be more self conscious of their spending habits. I hear from people everyday who espouse the virtues of living below their means, but despite the increase in desire to live a financially fit lifestyle, there are still households that are living paycheck to paycheck, and even after cutting out entertainment, dining out, and other non-essential expenses, are finding it hard to make ends meet. Unusually high unemployment and expected increases in the cost of food, gas, and healthcare will only exacerbate the problem these households face. For many, their lifestyles are about as frugal as they can possibly be, so what we need to do is think outside the proverbial box. Here are some less popular, but potentially valuable, money saving tips you might want to consider:
Reevaluate your phone service
Remember when you could just “reach out and touch someone?” Well, the days of using Ma and Pa Bell may be over, but many are still making phone calls through the traditional phone company. We often justify the amount we spend on phone service by claiming that it is a necessity, but the truth is you may be able to satisfy the need to communicate in more economical ways.
Let’s start with your home phone. These days you can get phone service from your phone company, cable company, and even your internet provider. All three offer the same calling features, promises of reliability, and a monthly bill starting around $30 and up. While it’s nice to be able to pick up a phone and hear a dial tone, you may be able to get the same features and reliability for a lot less using voice over internet protocol (VoIP) technology. It sounds high tech, but it’s rather quite simple. VoIP technology allows you to use your internet connection to make phone calls. There are a large number of VoIP providers, some with service for as little as $20 a year (see www.magicjack.com). You may have to sacrifice a little bit of call quality, but if you can tolerate the occasional distortion, you can save a bundle—up to $500 a year in some cases.
Some households have already gone as far as to eliminate the home phone all together, and why not? With the proliferation of cell phones, who needs a landline? Again, it’s easy to justify paying $70 or more a month for cell phone service, but if all you really need is a way to communicate on occasion, even your cell phone bill can be cut in half by switching to a prepaid cellular service provider. Prepaid and “no contract” plans often use the same network as the national service providers, but at a fraction of the cost. I personally use a plan that offers 300 minutes and unlimited data. That won’t work for everyone, especially if you live with your cell phone glued to your ear, but with more and more people texting and using social media, I rarely get even close to using 300 minutes of airtime in a month. I will admit that there was one time when I was not able to get phone service, but how often am I in Bismarck, ND? By making the switch, you could easily save another $400 a year.
In the next two weeks, I’ll be sharing more untraditional ways to save a little here and there around the home.