Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Prudent Ways to Save at Least $100 a Month
Everyone looks for simple ways to save, especially in today's tumultuous economy. Bankrate asked two frugal bloggers to share their thoughts on some nearly effortless ways to hang on to your hard-earned green. If you take their advice to heart, you'll likely save at least $100 a month around the house.
Rethink Your Phone Service
Fed up with expensive telephone bills? Jonni McCoy, author of the Miserly Moms website, recommends switching to an alternative phone service like magicJack or Skype.
Such services allow you to make local and long-distance calls for a fraction of the price of traditional phone service. For instance, magicJack customers can get phone service for as little as $19.95 a year, while Skype calls are free to other Skype users.
"These are good alternatives to (traditional) phone service, and they include long distance, so no extra card is needed," McCoy says.
Customers nervous about dropping their traditional phone carrier have other options for saving money.
For example, consider canceling long-distance service from your phone carrier and using calling cards instead, says Susan Palmquist, creator of money blog The Budget Smart Girl's Guide to the Universe.
Need a second phone line? In this case, a service like magicJack works well, because it's "much cheaper than adding a second line to your existing phone account," Palmquist says.
When it comes to your monthly cell phone bill, save money by cutting down on your minutes and switching to a more basic plan. Palmquist recommends switching to a pay-as-you-go cell phone.
Cut Down on Electricity
Each month, utility bills silently drain a little more cash from your wallet, preventing you from building a sizable emergency fund or retirement nest egg.
There are several ways to trim these bills. Three quick and painless ways to save include: switching to compact fluorescent light bulbs (which are more energy-efficient than standard light bulbs) lowering the temperature on your hot water heater (130 degrees Fahrenheit is enough to kill germs) and drying your clothing on a clothesline or rack whenever possible.
McCoy and Palmquist also recommend signing up for any incentive or rebate programs offered by the local utility company.
With these programs, you typically agree to allow the power company to briefly shut off certain appliances when energy demand is particularly high. In return, you get a credit on your monthly bill.
For example, customers who participate in Florida Power & Light's On Call Savings Program allow FPL to install a small device on their water heater and air conditioner compressor. This allows the utility company to periodically borrow electricity for 15 minutes or so.
Palmquist -- who lives in Minneapolis and gets her power from Xcel Energy -- does this and gets a 15 percent discount on her bills.
Are you drowning in monthly water bills? Palmquist and McCoy recommend money-saving options such as washing all clothing in cold water.
"I use cold water to wash clothes, and recently read that using the delicate cycle also saves water, too," Palmquist says.
In some cases, saving cash actually goes hand in hand with superior performance, Palmquist says.
"We installed a low-flow shower head in the main bathroom and find it not only saves water, but the flow is better than the old one," she says.
Of course, another "no-brainer" way to save is simply to use appliances less frequently. Wait until you have a full load before running the washing machine, dryer or dishwasher.
Don't overlook water-saving tips for outside the home. Palmquist plans to invest in a rain barrel for outside watering next year. Meanwhile, McCoy recommends making changes to landscaping "so there is less lawn to water."
Bundle or Drop Cable and Internet
McCoy suggests saving money by bundling cable and Internet services. Palmquist agrees, and recently switched to an "economy package" for her TV service.
However, Palmquist says it's important to look before you leap into bundling.
"Sometimes it's more expensive and they can lock you into a two-year contract, so check out everything first," she says.
If you're really gung-ho about saving, simply drop cable altogether. Perhaps you can watch your favorite TV shows for free on an Internet site such as Hulu.com.
Or, maybe it's time to simply give up those expensive TV habits and think about the priorities that really matter to you.
"My main advice is to think about wants and needs," Palmquist says. "Many of us think something's a necessity when really it's just a want."