David Bakke strives to help others better manage their money on the popular blog, Money Crashers Personal Finance.
Chances are that if you’ve gotten a paycheck in the last month, you’re well aware of the recent payroll tax increase. In fact, 75 percent of working Americans are paying an additional $1,600 in taxes each year. In order to keep this from throwing your finances for a loop, you’re going to need to do some belt-tightening. One of the best places to start is with your monthly bills. While the majority of these may be fixed expenses, there are many ways to reduce your monthly bills if you know where to look:
1. Check for Hidden Fees
Banks, credit card issuers, and utility companies have all been hit hard by the recent financial crisis, and they’ve responded by socking it to American consumers with sneaky hidden fees. Look closely at your bills to see if there’s anything you haven’t noticed before like a “monthly maintenance fee” or a “service fee.” Call the company and find out what you can do to get it taken off. Although it may sound extreme, sometimes threatening to cancel your service can inspire companies to remove unnecessary charges. Even though the fees can seem small, if you have five bills that charge a $5 monthly maintenance fee, you’ll spend an extra $300 per year.
2. Reduce Monthly Data Plans
You may love checking emails and Facebook on your smartphone, but you may not be using as much data as you thought when you signed your monthly cell phone contract. According to money-saving website Billshrink, the average American household uses just under 2GB of data, yet many pay for plans 8GB or larger. Take a look at your bill to see how much data you’re using per month and see if you can get by with a cheaper cell phone plan.
3. Eliminate Home Telephone Service
Want to cross one monthly bill entirely off your list? If you have a solid Internet connection and a cell phone with good reception, you can eliminate your home telephone service all together. Services like Skype allow you to chat with a loved one and see them too. A tiny device called a MagicJack allows any Internet connection to be turned into a phone connection – and costs much less than what you’re paying for a landline.
4. Bundle Services
Another option to save on monthly bills is to bundle your services. Most providers now offer bundled services for Internet, cell phone, and cable TV. Research the competition because the deals are always out there. Two words of warning though: Avoid signing a long-term contract whenever possible, and also understand that if you have a bundled service of cable TV and Internet and a connection problem arises, you could be without both services for a significant period of time.
5. Save on Groceries
The average American household spends more than $700 each month on groceries, according to the Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. That’s a huge chunk of the budget for most families. But by clipping grocery coupons and investigating alternative items and brands, you can start saving. Sign up for your grocer’s loyalty program and get coupons in the mail. Look into buying frozen orange juice instead of fresh, for example, and check out your store’s generic brands – you might be pleasantly surprised.
Since it’s impossible to eliminate all your bills, look into some of the many online tools that can help you organize your finances. Manilla allows you to streamline your accounts so you can access them all in one place. Sign up for email or text alerts so you never miss a due date and don’t have to worry about paying late fees. After all, organizing your finances is just as important as reducing your monthly bills.
What other ways can you think of to save on your recurring bills?