7 Ways to Save More Money on Your Monthly Bills

David Bakke writes about smart money management on the popular financial blog, MoneyCrashers.com.

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Monthly bills are a fact of life. We’re always going to have to pay for things like rent, mortgage, electricity, Internet, and groceries – but are we trapped by the prices we’re given? Absolutely not. With the wealth of information the Internet has put at your fingertips, there’s always a lower price to be found somewhere. By simply doing a little research and strategizing, you can lower you monthly bills and save significant money.

1. Slash Credit Card Debt
Americans carry an average of $7,000 in credit card debt. Every dollar in interest paid is a dollar wasted and nothing more. To pay down your balances faster, try clipping coupons to save on groceries, refinancing your mortgage, and considering public transportation to cut down on the high costs of owning and maintaining a car. Put all those savings toward paying off your balances and resolve to never carry one again.

2. Do You Really Need That Flat-Screen TV?
A shiny flat-screen TV, a vacation to Aruba, and dinner out at that new four-star restaurant may sound great, but can your monthly finances handle those expenses? If you’re on uneven footing, your best bet is to put off any major purchases until your surplus can more than comfortably allow them. Put all the money you conserve toward your debts, or add it to your savings, and sleep a little easier at night.

3. Don’t Write Checks, Use Dwolla
If you think writing out checks for each of your monthly bills has little effect on your finances, you’re mistaken. Each stamp costs 46 cents and in most cases banks charge money for new books of checks. By using Dwolla to pay your bills, you don’t pay any fees for transactions $10 or under and just 25 cents for transactions above that. When you add up the costs for postage, checks, and transportation to the post office, the savings are significant.

4. Reduce Late Fees With Dwolla
By taking advantage of Dwolla’s automatic payment feature, you can put late fees in the rearview mirror for good. Especially effective for monthly utility bills and rent, Dwolla allows you to send payments directly to your landlord’s email address, and you can even split rent between your roommates and pay via Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn.

5. Do You Really Need the Latest Smartphone?
As smartphones become more and more ubiquitous, picking up the latest and greatest device is all the rage. Resist the urge to upgrade and you can save money by holding onto that older generation phone. Next, reevaluate your usage. The average smartphone owner uses just 256MB of data per month, but many of us end up paying for plans 10GB or larger. Investigate cheaper data plans and switch to one that better fits your needs.

6. Save on Home Energy
Adjusting your thermostat just three degrees in either direction can save you 20% on your home energy bill. You can automate your home’s temperature adjustments by installing a programmable thermostat which can help regulate your energy usage at different times throughout the week. If you use ceiling fans, make sure they rotate counter-clockwise in the winter months and clockwise in the summer. Don’t discount any of these little moves – they add up to big savings in the end.

7. Make Your Own
From health and beauty products to household cleaners, you can save hundreds of dollars each year by simply making your own. For example, baking soda is an inexpensive replacement for name brand cleaners to tackle sinks, bathtubs, and even toilets. Try vinegar diluted with water and a splash of lemon juice for a natural and cheap way to glean glass and mirrors. When it comes to beauty products, you can really save a fortune by making your own. Try fresh papaya for a natural skin peel, oat bran to exfoliate, witch hazel to tone, and coconut oil to moisturize. Plus, all these products are as gentle on the environment as they are on your pocketbook.

Final Thoughts
Once you start reaping the benefits of these techniques, don’t let the saving stop there. It’s easy to reward yourself for that hard work with a personal purchase of a new electronic gadget, but instead, consider shoring up other financial goals, such as setting aside more for retirement or investing in a college savings program for your children. Saving money is always great for your financial health, but putting that money where it can do the most good should always be your ultimate goal.

What ways can you think of to save on monthly bills?

 

This post was contributed by David Bakke, who writes about smart money management on the popular financial blog, MoneyCrashers.com.

 

 

  • Wifee2013

    This is a really good article thanks.

  • http://www.allthatmsjazz.com/ Jasmine W.

    Great article!

  • http://mistiwolanski.com Carradee

    Speaking as someone who makes her own cleaner: It’s cheaper and can often even be better for your skin. (I have contact dermatitis.) It’s also a lot easier than you probably think.

    For extra power in your vinegar, you can soak an herb in it (true oregano is best, but thyme or basil are also good) for a few weeks for fragrance and added benefits.

    I personally also like using soap nuts for laundry and dish soap. (Stick 5 berries in a muslin bag with your laundry. It’ll last 3–5 loads.)

    I recently started using argan nut oil to soothe my dermatitis, and as an unexpected side effect, I’ve discovered that it softens and minimizes scars, too, and is great for burns. It’s a bit pricy, but you can find good quality oil for ±$6 an ounce, if you look, and a little bit goes a long way. I think it works because it’s really high on vitamin E.

    I’ve also made my own lip balm, anti-migraine pills, anti-allergy pills, and hair conditioner. I’ll be making my own deodorant as soon as I get some containers. Some of those take some specialized ingredients or tools, so there’s some up-front cost, but the savings add up pretty quickly. (Particularly with the anti-migraine pills, which is a recipe I’ve come up with that works particularly well for me.)

    • CaityJones

      Wow – thanks for all of the great information, Carradee! I’m curious – what do you use to help combat your migraines?

      • http://mistiwolanski.com Carradee

        I primarily use feverfew. (A pinch of feverfew also helps me with a regular headache. I’ll grab a pinch from the bag and choke it down, when I need some but haven’t made more capsules, yet.)

        However, I have bile reflux and a muscle in my neck likes to lock up (which can trigger migraines), so when either of those is giving me trouble, I’ll add a little lemon balm (stomach soother; anti-migraine) and lemon verbena (muscle relaxer), or make a tea.

        Ginger’s good anti-inflammatory. Nettle leaf seems to function as a system stabilizer. Elderberry and rose hips are immune boosters. Basil’s an antibiotic—as I discovered when I accidentally cured my own lung infection, which is what got me started on the natural remedy path.

        Yeah, I use myself as a guinea pig. *wink*

        I hate the taste of feverfew, though—thus why I put it in capsules. (A small one a morning is enough to keep most migraines away, and if I feel one coming up, taking another will usually send it scampering away—which is better than the expensive medicines I was prescribed.) I’ve read that kudzu root’s also supposed to be good for migraines, so I plan to try that sometimes, in the hope that it’ll taste better.

        Note that these work for me. I’m no medical professional. Please do your own research before trying anything.

        Feverfew in particular can be hazardous, when mixed with the wrong medication. (Blood thinners + feverfew = bad, for example. And if feverfew is paired with white willow bark [which is related to meadowsweet root and aspirin, I think], both the feverfew and the bark don’t work nearly as well.

        One thing I always research is toxicity—and if I can’t find specific dosages, I look for anecdotal examples from people who have taken something for a long time with no ill effects, then make sure my own dosage is no more than that.

  • Nilo

    Hey, thanks for the tips for the thought!
    Some extra things you can do to help save money is if you don’t like your city water and constantly buy bottled water… you can just go and look for natural springs in the area and they will let you fill up as much as you want for free. It’s un-flouridated and so pure that you’ll never try bottled water again!

    • CaityJones

      Something I hadn’t ever thought of! Where do you go to fill up your water bottles?

  • http://www.facebook.com/morgino Morgan Sokol

    Another suggestion, a lot of companies are much cheaper than your major ones when it comes to useage. I dont use my cell phone a ton and was using ATT and paying 75 bucks a month. I switched to a company called Ting which is a more pay to play (im sure there are a few out there) and my bill is now only 30 a month

    • CaityJones

      Thanks for the tip, Morgan!

  • ekpneo

    I am a little confused about #3. Wouldn’t the company we are paying the bills to have to accept Dwolla? It would love to pay with Dwolla, but at least this point #3 (and #4) only work in a pure Dwolla world. Please correct me if I’m wrong ;)

    • CaityJones

      You are correct! There are quite a few apartment complexes/property management companies that are signing on to accept Dwolla for payment (more on-time payments, no cashing checks), and we’re working with some cities’ chambers of commerce to make Dwolla available for other payments (like paying dues).

  • http://www.debtconsolidationcare.com/User/good.nelly Nelly Brown

    I don’t have a suggestion. Rather, I have a question. The first point is about reducing credit card debt. Dave Ramsey says that the best way to reduce credit card debt is through debt snowball method. Do you agree with this statement? Some people swear by debt avalanche method.

    • CaityJones

      Hi Nelly – I actually have been using the debt avalanche method. For me this works, because it puts my mind at ease to know that I’m working towards not being hit with a crazy high interest rate each month. But I know people who use both methods, which are both great if you stick to the plan.

  • Amanda

    Another thing I did to save money which is unusual is I signed up with this company called BillCutterz. They saved me about $40 a month on my Comcast bill and didn’t change my services. The best part about them was if they hadn’t saved me money I wouldn’t have had to pay them anything, which is rare now days. (They do charge a % of the savings they get but I figure everyone has to get paid and in the end I still saved money that I was just throwing away to Comcast before)

    • CaityJones

      Thanks for sharing, Amanda!