- Personal Finance
Stretching Dollars - How to Save a Few Dollars in Your Family Budget with Three Simple Suggestions
More from the Stretching Dollars series...
Everybody could use a few extra dollars. A person would have to be crazy to say no to what essentially amounts to more money in his or her pocket. In exchange for a few small changes in your lifestyle, I will show you how to save a few dollars from your budget every month. Every tip outlined in this guide is something that myself and my wife have done successfully. Depending on your financial situation and how many luxuries you prefer to live with (or without), then your savings may be much higher or much lower. After my wife and I enacted these changes, our monthly expenses shrank by 40%! If you have a tip you'd like to share, or even a success story, please feel free to leave a comment.
Cut the Cable
Getting rid of cable television sounds crazy, right? What will you do without your favorite shows? This tip is probably the hardest to accomplish, but it's well worth it. Consider the average cable bill may run from $30 all the way up to $120 per month depending on how many features and recording devices you have in your home. Putting this money back in your pocket may make it easier to say goodbye to the Friday night line-up. Also consider how much time you are at home and make use of the television. Myself and my wife work a lot and attend college night classes, so the only time we were even at home to watch television was on Sundays! 6 out of the 7 days of the week we weren't even using the service.
You don't have to go completely without video entertainment. Netflix has many movies that stream on demand. You can use your PC, smartphone, or video game system to watch movies. And, the lowest subscription fee is under $10 per month. Even if your cable bill is only $30, you can shrink the cost of your video entertainment by more than 66% switching to Netflix and kicking the cable company to the curb.
There are also free internet sites that stream television shows, such as Hulu.com. You can also head directly to a television network's website. If the show is brand new, then you'll likely find the episodes posted there to watch on a stream a couple days after the show aired!
Reduce your Internet Pipe
How much of your bandwidth are you actually using? How many hours a day are you using it? Ask yourself, is it worth it? This was hard for me. We had talked about getting rid of the internet altogether, but decided to keep a cheap, slower connection. 1.5mbps down is not much at all, but it lets us stream Netflix movies and I can play video games online with my friends. This small change lowered the internet cost by half. That money went back into our pockets.
Check your area for budget ISPs (Internet Service Providers). Some won't let you have a connection without bundling a home phone and/or cable TV. Forget those guys. There are smaller local companies and resellers that will set you up. It will not be a fast connection, but unless you're running your business' web-server out of your home, most likely you don't need it.
Consider tethering your smartphone to your PC. Your smartphone is now your modem and connects to the internet over mobile broadband. This way, you won't need an ISP since you are already paying for tethering (unless you root or jailbreak your phone, but I'm not getting into that in this article). Mobile broadband is not as fast as cable internet, but it will suffice. AT&T charges $15 a month for tethering, and if you have an unlimited data plan, this is the cheapest broadband available. The only thing cheaper is a $10 per month dial up connection.
Fun with Mobile Phones
There is a lot of things you can do with a mobile smartphone. One thing you can is make it your main line and get rid of the house phone. This tip is not for everybody. If you have a large household with a lot of kids, you'll probably want to keep your home phone. If you're a couple with no kids who both carry mobile phones, then it makes perfect sense. I keep my mobile on me at all times. I'm also only at home longer than a few hours on Sunday. Getting rid of the home phone saves a few dollars.
If you and your spouse have separate mobile phone bills, total them up. Isn't that expensive? Yeesh! Contact one provider and find out about the family line options, where you and your spouse share a rate plan between the two phones. My wife and I did this. Putting her phone on my plan as a family line saved us $60 a month in mobile phone bills. In three months, we saved more than enough to offset the $150 cancellation fee she had to pay to get her other carrier turned off. Moving forward, we continue to save $60 every month compared to the former bills.
Who knew these simple suggestions could make such a large impact on your budget? Just three simple suggestions can save upwards of a couple hundred dollars. If you're leading a busy life, these suggestions may not even be noticeable after a couple days.