No one likes paying bills. But if you don't the power goes out and you can't call to get it fixed because your phone is out too. That doesn't mean you should be spending one red cent more than you have to. We're going to assume our readers are already using programmable thermostats and weather stripping to keep energy costs down. Just like we're pretty sure you've already called the cable company to negotiate a lower monthly service charge. Last month we looked at the 5 Electronics Items You Pay Too Much For, and in this next installment of the series, we are looking at 5 monthly bills you could be saving money on.
Are you ready to cut the cord? I dropped my cable package last year and haven't regretted it once. My cable and internet bill used to come out at around $160 after taxes and fees. Totally outrageous! And that was after repeated attempts to get them to lower it. Now, I pay $65 for high speed broadband Internet access. I also have monthly subscriptions to Netflix and Hulu Plus that run $7.99 each, and an average of $12 a month spent on pay-per-view shows. They both have apps for my Sony Network Blu-Ray Player, so I can watch them right on my TV. I also have a nifty Mohu Leaf Antenna so I can get my local channels free. At an average savings of $65 a month, I've saved $780 in the last year!
As much as we gripe and moan about them, most of us still have cell phone service through AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, or Verizon. Those of us with smartphones are usually looking at monthly bills of over $100. But there is another way. If you have an unlocked phone or currently use AT&T or T-Mobile and are out of your contract or can get out of your contract (see our blog on how to avoid early termination fees), you can pay $45 a month for unlimited talk, text, and data by getting a $15 Straight Talk sim card. By saving you at least $660 a year (and possibly a lot more), you would easily recoup the loss of getting an unlocked cell phone.
Did you know that if the power company can't access your meter, they may just base your monthly reading on last year's? It happened to me, and it did not work out in my favor. Make sure the meter reader has access and double-check their work by comparing the number on your bill to the number on your meter. Also, both electric and gas companies often offer their customers ways to save money. For instance, my electric company offers energy credits to customers who enroll in their AC Cycling program. If you're part of this program, the company installs a switch that allows them to turn off the AC compressor at peak usage times during the weekday. Check the websites for your local energy providers to see if you are eligible for any money-saving programs.
The immortal Balki Bartokomous once said, “I’m in debt. I am a true American.” Even if that Perfect Strangers reference flew right over your head, the sad truth is that 46% of Americans carry a credit card balance from month-to-month at about $2,600. If you only pay the minimum with an 18% APR card, it would take 10.4 years to pay off that debt, and you end up paying $1,476 in interest! You can avoid being stuck paying all that interest for years to come by getting a card with a 0% intro APR. Transfer the balance of your high APR card over and divide the amount by the number of months you have the 0% APR. Pay that amount every month and by the end of the term, the debt will be gone. This Chase Slate card offers 0% APR for 15 months and a very rare 0% balance transfer fee. You can check out other credit cards that offer 0% APR here.
Although many people have traded in their landlines for cell phones, others wouldn't dream of living without a home phone. But you don't need to be paying $30-40 a month for standard home phone service. VoIP, which stands for Voice over IP, allows you to connect a phone line to your internet service. There are a number of options available to you and you can usually port your original landline number.
You can get a Skype adapter for $65 and your first year of unlimited service to the US and Canada is free. Plus you get 200 minutes of international calls (landlines and mobiles). After the first year, pay $4.99 a month for the same level of service. Vonage is an excellent choice for those who make a lot of calls overseas. For $26 a month, you get unlimited landline to landline calling to over 60 countries. Or you can choose a more scaled back plan with 300 minutes to use calling U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico for $11.99 a month. Another alternative is the MagicJack. After you purchase a $40 or $70 device, your first year of service in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico is free. Subsequent years are $30 for the year or $20 if you agree to a 5 year plan. For international calls, you must purchase prepaid credit. Other VoIP options include Ooma and Google Voice.
If you found these ways to save money on monthly bills helpful and want to find out more things you pay too much for as we continue this series, plus get the best online deals delivered to your inbox daily, sign up for Brad's Daily Alerts!