7 Outdated Household Items and Services to Cut From Your Budget Today
Times change quickly, and as a result, many of us are still holding onto (and paying for!) antiqued household items and services that we no longer need.
I talked to the shopping, technology and lifestyle experts here at Brad's Deals, and came up with a list of seven things you really don't need to be wasting your money on anymore. Keep in mind these are just suggestions, we realize everyone's lifestyle is different and a few of these things are necessities for some people. But let's be real: most of us could really benefit from cutting out a few of our more unnecessary household expenses, so here are our picks for stuff that needs to go the way of the dodo.
Yes. You can cancel your cable subscription, save hundreds of dollars a month and still keep up on all your favorite TV shows. Yes. Even sports. Yes. Even football. I know, it sounds impossible, but Brad's Deals editor Rebecca Lehmann did it more than a year ago and has never looked back. If your cable bill is astronomical but you're not on board for cutting out the service entirely, check to see if you can switch to a different provider. Often the smaller cable and internet companies offer much better deals than the big ones, and the customer service alone is worth the move. We wrote a blog post about alternatives to big name cable companies a few months ago, so head over there for more info.
I'm sure this is a controversial opinion, but I have no use for cookbooks anymore. No, I don't order out every meal. In fact I absolutely love to cook, and in addition to knowing all my favorite staples by heart, I also have tons of recipes ready and waiting for me to whip them up. Where am I getting these recipes if not from a cookbook? The interwebz, of course! I spend more time during the week than I'd like to admit scouring cooking blogs, online food magazines and recipe databases and bookmarking them for later. At this point the "Recipes" folder on my Chrome bookmarks bar is jam-packed with enough meals from around the world to fill six solid cookbooks, and I'm just getting started. The best part? I didn't pay for any of them! I will probably never buy another cookbook in my entire life, and I am so OK with that.
Lest I get anyone yelling at me in the comments, I know cookbooks have sentimental value to a lot of people. My mom has cookbooks that were owned by her mother and grandmother, and I actually own a few that were given to me by people I care about. I'm not advocating for getting rid of anything you love, I'm merely suggesting that if you find yourself buying new cookbooks often, you can save your money and find new recipes on the web instead.
If you're getting a little overwhelmed by your awesome free recipe bookmarks, check out Paprika, my favorite recipe app. It costs $4.99 to download, but is well worth the price tag. It extracts recipes from URLs into a standard, user-friendly format, lets you tag and organize your recipes however you like, and keeps the screen on while you cook so you're not constantly waking up your device with messy fingers. I don't know how I managed without it.
Printers and Ink Cartridges
When I moved into my college house, my parents gave me a housewarming gift in the form of their old HP 1020 LaserJet printer. As an English major, this was useful for printing off all my syllabuses, readings and class papers, although it wasn't totally necessary--my school had a computer lab where I could have printed them for free. After I graduated, I lugged the printer across the Midwest to grad school, where I found fewer and fewer reasons to use it. Most of my professors wanted my assignments submitted via email, I could use my iPad or laptop to do my readings, and my syllabuses were either printed for me or posted online.
When my printer ran out of ink halfway through my second semester, I looked up how much it would cost to replace the ink cartridges and laughed. Staples currently has them for $149.99 and I could buy a brand new printer for $50, which would come with full ink cartridges. Or I could recycle my old printer and embrace the paper-free lifestyle. Guess which one I went with? It's been two years since I made this decision and it hasn't once been an issue. If I need to fly, I have a mobile boarding pass sent to my phone. If I need to print out something like concert tickets or a rental application, I pay a few cents at the FexEx Office down the road from me. Life is just as easy (if not easier) and I'm saving trees in the process. I call that a 21st century win.
We mentioned this before, and got some push back on the idea. A reader named Valerie left a good comment on the article I linked to in the previous sentence: "Landlines are necessary in rural areas where the signals are weak. More than people realize, there are areas in this country that still have no internet. People still need to rely on landlines especially in inclement weather, and emergencies."
So let me clarify here: if you live in a rural area where cell coverage is weak, you should probably stick with a landline. If you live in a place where cell coverage is good, however, it's a waste of money to have both a cell and a landline. My parents, for example, live in Minnesota's capital city, where cell coverage is about as good as it gets. They still have a landline despite the fact that both of them have a working cell phone (my Dad actually has TWO) and an office number. This is clearly a waste of money, and it's inconvenient for anyone who wants to talk to them: whenever I try to get ahold of them I end up calling like six different numbers and never knowing which one they're going to actually pick up. So if you won't do it for your budget, do it for the sanity of the people who call you on the regular. Skip the landlines and save.
P.S. You may be able to get a discount on your cell phone plan through your employer.
Another disclaimer is probably necessary here: if you live in a rural or suburban area without access to mass transit this isn't going to work for you. Sad as it is for your wallet and our environment, our country has been built around the automobile since the car industry conspired to bankrupt the nation's previously thriving streetcar systems in the 1920s.
But things are changing, and if you live in a city with a good public transit system (think NYC, Chicago, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Washington D.C., etc), you can easily survive without a car and save hundreds of dollars every month. Between car insurance, car payments, gas and parking fees, I have friends here in Chicago who shell out close to $600/month on their cars, despite living and working within walking distance of the train. I don't have a car, but if I buy too many groceries to carry home, I can spend $4 on an Uber home. If my boyfriend and I want to visit his family in Michigan, we can take Amtrak or rent a car for the weekend for under $100. That $600 my friends are spending on their cars can go to my student loan payments, rent or a nice dinner out, and I am not sorry to be missing out on rush hour traffic jams.
For tips on how to survive (and thrive!) without a car, check out this blog post!
Do you own a cell phone? Because if you do, you don't need an alarm clock. It doesn't even have to be a smartphone: even my junior high best friend's Nokia brick had an alarm feature way back in 2002. Afraid your phone will die in the night and render you unable to wake up for work? Charge it while you sleep! Want to wake up to the sweet sounds of today's hit music or old school talk radio? Change your alarm tone to your favorite song, use Pandora's alarm clock option or download a radio alarm app to your smartphone. My favorite part about using my phone as an alarm is that I can set different alarm times for different days, and I don't have to remember to turn them on or off the night before.
I love reading magazines, but my addiction to the New Yorker, Bon Appetite, Vogue and Rolling Stone (to name just a few) would cost me a lot if I subscribed to every magazine individually or, even worse, if I bought a copy of each one at the newsstand every month. Instead, I can pay $9.99/month for Texture, a digital magazine subscription service that gives me unlimited access to more than 150 magazines on my iPad and iPhone. There's even a free trial if you want to see what you're missing without shelling out right away!