Save $100 a Month With Three Frugal Choices

In an effort to offset rising costs in food and energy, many Americans are seeking ways to reduce their household expenses. We are no different.

During the past few months we have been reviewing our monthly budget and looking for areas to shave. Some categories can be reduced drastically with a radical change (such as canceling your home phone or cable service). Others choices are not quite as painful.

Reduce cable service to basic channel offerings. Monthly savings: $30.  The idea of canceling cable altogether strikes fear in most couch potatoes. A good compromise is to cut back to basic cable service. You’ll still receive your local cable channels and will be able to use a TiVo or DVR to record network television shows.

Many cable providers offer this bare-bones package at $10-15 a month – compare that to what you are currently paying for 150 channels of things you barely watch.

I also see the use of internet television programming continuing to rise, and with a device such as a Roku player, or internet-enabled television, you can find plenty of offerings (some free, some not) for viewing pleasure.

I keep hoping this will one day satisfy my wish for a la carte programming where I only pay for the few shows that I watch, rather than a huge cable bill every month to receive the 145 channels I don’t watch. 

Skip the bookstores and hit the library. Monthly savings: $30.  Before I started making an attempt to live more frugally, I frequently picked up a book or two at the local bookstore to the tune of $25-30 a month (this is a conservative estimate as newly released hardcovers typically cost much more).

To satisfy my reading habit in a more frugal fashion I decided to visit a local library. I found the sections on personal finances, career development and personal productivity clustered in one area. I was in heaven!

These days, many libraries support various ereaders such as the Amazon Kindle which allow you to download the content electronically, furthering your savings and convenience factor.

Cancel your home phone service. Monthly savings: $40.  I was late to the party on this front as several of our friends cut home phone service almost immediately when cell phones (and unlimited in-network and long distance packages) became so prevelant.

I was always a bit leery of doing away with my home phone, largely because I was concerned we would go over our out-of-network minutes making local calls, etc. However, these days so much correspondence takes place over email, Facebook, Twitter and text messages that there isn’t much need to make local phone calls. The few local calls we make generally fall well short of our out-of-network minute plan.

So you see, with a little creativity and some sacrifice, it is relatively easy to save $100 a month. What will you do with that $100? If you are in debt, I suggest putting the savings towards debt repayment. If you are out of debt, I suggest increasing your emergency fund to a full year’s worth of expenses.

Comments

  1. If there were a cable company that would let me pay just for the channels I want I would probably get cable but they all require me to first get the basic package full of stuff I don’t want to be able to get a special package that includes the channels I do want along with others. It’s stupid and I think if they don’t change this cable is history thanks to the Internet. We watch everything online or over the air.
    We use our cell phones primarily for texting and don’t want to get rid of our home phone but don’t like the large expense. we’re currently working on switching over to magic jack or something similar though the jury’s out on that just yet as we’ve run into an issue we’re still working to resolve.

      • the spectrum of channels won’t be there in the ‘a la carte’ menu. Scale made many of these channels viable. They’ll be gone the minute there isn’t a guaranteed broad base keeping the ups and downs smoothed out.

  2. I’m glad to have discovered your blog. We own a small business and are also in the mode of trying to figure out how to shave our living and business expenses. The phone and cable service (which are bundled for us) are on our list of things to really think about dumping or at least minimizing. The Internet is also part of that bundle and we need that part because we do a lot of our work at night after coming home from the shop or in the morning before heading in. I think we can get the monthly down to $60 or so instead of $140. The other biggie we’ve cut out is eating out. Much more home cooking and leftovers have really cut out spending.

    The other good thing about being frugal? It’s also very green! Jack Benny would have been a very green guy!

  3. It’s amazing how much we spend each month on phone. tv, and smart phones. I recently cut $160/month by re-visitng these.

    Basic Cable does not have local sports. Why not drop cable and switch to Hulu at only $8/month? Disadvantage to both is lack of local sports. Hulu lets you stream shows on any screen or computer in the house. I love Hulu. I bought a Roku box for the TV. Hubbie finds Roku difficult to navigate and I agree it is awkward but I like the cost as well as ability to watch shows anytime. HBO has an on-line package but it is $25/month. (still no sports).

    I got my land line dropped to $5/month threatening to quit. I need to receive faxes and not thrilled with any of the 3 on-line fax services I’ve tried and would rather pay for phone service than pay for on-line fax service. I changed service pack on cell phone to drop many charges.

  4. Remember, with out a landline phone, you are not address/located to 9-1-1. If I can dial 911, even if I can’t talk, they will come to me. That doesn’t happen with the cell phone. And make that phone an old fashioned corded non-electric phone for when the electric goes out and you need to make a phone call – hand held phones won’t work…. It’s often times an issue out here.

    No cable at all here and enjoy the peace and quiet. If there is something I want to watch, there’s hulu.com on the internet – but that is very very rare.

    Keep your eating out to once a month, and if it’s not a special occasion, or even if it is, try the dollar menus somewhere :)

    Other ways to save a bundle – forego the nail jobs, hair dyes, fancy hair-dos/cuts, and globs of make up – also extra purses and shoes. Keep it basic….. I’m sure not spending on frivolous things is why I was able to retire so very early – and live on a very modest income.

  5. Glad to hear we’ve go 2 out of 3 of these going. 4 years ago we had just moved and had a six month promotion on cable tv… the 6 months expired at about the same time as a few nights of ridiculous reality tv and we decided to cut the cord. Where we live we can’t get anything via an antenna either, so we have gone without… and so glad we did.

    That ties in with # 2… we love our library.. they get DVD’s almost as fast as netflix, and we watch a lot of TV series that way… And without a tv on all the time, we do read a lot..

    Now the third is more difficult.. I need a land line since I work from home, but at least I get reimbursed $35 per month towards that cost..

    Keep the great ideas coming!

  6. I’d love to drop my landline but I don’t have a cell phone and every plan I’ve ever seen is much more expensive than the landline, or simply not as dependable. :-/

    • Joe, my husband doesn’t have a cell phone, and we don’t have a landline. For now, he uses Google Voice, which is free (at least until the end of the year, we’ll see after that). It’s dependable, as long as you have a dependable internet connection. And you can text him there as well.

  7. I feel like it’s silly not to mention Netflix as a great alternative to traditional TV. At 8$ a month it’s kept me satisfied since I got it about 4 months ago and I have plenty lined up before I will get bored with it.

    It also (mostly) stopped me bothering to pirate anything.

  8. I just bought a Tracfone with 1500 minutes and triple minutes for life! Unfortunately, it doesn’t work in my house because we don’t have a cell tower nearby. I can use it in my neighbor’s field, or along the road, but not inside. Good news, though – a new cell tower has been proposed for my rural neighborhood, so I may be able to ditch the landline after all!

    I live about 70 miles from TV transmitters, and with the mountains, the only TV options are satellite and Comcast. Comcast wants $18.75/month just for OTA channels! High speed internet choice is only Comcast as well. So for now, I have the Triple Play package with Comcast as the Verizon landline service in township is terrible.

    When the cell tower is up and running, if my Tracfone works in the house, I’m going to have only internet service with Comcast and nothing else.

  9. Got rid of the Dish Network altogether. Went to Netflix ($8.00 p/m) and an antenna for the local channels (free). Interestingly, the picture quality is better than it was before. Don’t forget that anything you can’t find at your local library can usually be ordered through their network if you wait a few days.

  10. I wish the cable companies here would give us a break. There’s only two to choose from, so I think that’s why we get ripped off so bad here. I know in areas where there are more to choose from, the prices are more competitive. Also love the idea of a la carte fees! I’d pay for HGTV and Bravo. My husband would have to have his sports channels, too, and the kids would have a cartoon channel. Done. Sign me up!

  11. Too late. But good tips for those who haven’t cut their umbilical cable cord (it keeps the cable companies’ profit margins well-nourished).

  12. One more note on the library card…many libraries have quite a good movie selection you can checkout. Also, at 7.99/month, Netflix isn’t a bad deal to replace TV.

  13. We have been cell phone only for years and years. Love it.

    I am a little afraid to do this math, but we have changed a lot of our grocery habits. I spend way more on fresh produce now. It’s more expensive but we have little waste (I freeze any fruit in jeopardy of rotting for smoothies) and we have lost weight/feel better. I take my lunch to work, and my husband takes snacks. My daughter takes her lunch to school most days. The theory is savings come in reduced healthcare costs down the road. So far I think we are healthier but it’s hard to know if we are staving off cancer or some other horrible illness. The weight loss can’t be bad…

  14. We just recently left Directv as we ended our two year contract. We now use Amazon Prime for our streaming video and OTA (over the air) television for local. I have been amazed at how much good programming is available OTA once you take the time to look. The amount of free content online like videos and great blogs like this one are now part of our entertainment package. The last thing is the amazing picture. I couldn’t afford the HD package from Directv but now all my programming is in HD.

    The other savings I am very proud of are prepaid cell phones. We are Straighttalk customers (Tracfone, Net10, same thing) for the last two and a half years. Our plan is to drop the landline after our 12 month discount period with AT&T is over. I then plan to change our monthly cell bill from 30 to 45 dollars and go to unlimited everything. I am now saving up for that new Android phone. Our Straighttalk phones use Verizon as the carrier and cost less than half the price as their customers pay. Same service, less money, no pain, how much better can it be?

  15. I am missing something on the Cell vs Landline issue. If you drop landline at ~30-40 bux a month and switch to cell plans ~60+ bux based on plan choice, how are you saving money?

  16. These are really good ideas. I’d ditch the cable altogether, but my folks this use it. You get at a 1200 dollars yearly saving just by these little tricks. There’s surely better ways to spend this money.

  17. I was excited to see the title of this post, but wouldn’t you know it, I can’t do any of those tips. Why? Because I don’t have cable to start with, I already only read free (from the library or gifts), and there is no cellphone reception at my house. Du-oh!

    Too bad, maybe next time.

  18. I use a smart phone (65/month) am planning to drop NetFlix streaming because even though it is only $8 their selection is mostly old movies and previous seasons of TV show. It will be cheaper to pick up a redbox when a new movie comes out. I would love to get rid of my landline but need it for internet so that costs me about (39/month). I live in an apartment and cable is part of my rent so not an issue there. Wish I could get internet some other way than the land line.
    Also an FYI had a relative that worked for the local cable company. They often have packages they not only do they not promote but they won’t offer until you insist you want a cheaper package than their “basic” this is usually something that is close to being only the local channels. You have to really push to get them to let you in on this. Not nice but true in our city at least.
    Ideas on cheaper internet at home?

  19. I think most people don’t realize how much spending on technology has increased over the last few decades. cell phones, internet, cable and data plans has dramatically increased peoples costs. Cutting back on just some of this will greatly reduce you budget.

  20. I’ve noticed in a lot of tech blogs that the Mohu Leaf HDTV antenna is picking up some hype as a great, inexpensive cable alternative. I have mine on back order and anxiously await it.

  21. We canceled our landline about year ago and we do not miss it at all. Everybody in the house had a cell phone and we barely used the landline anyways.

  22. I’m at the public library at least once a week, supporting my habit. It doesn’t entirely stop me from buying books, but it’s saved me thousands of dollars over the last five years or so. Gave up the land line a couple of years ago and haven’t missed it at all. Still have cable, but they’re my ISP as well, and since my wife and I work mostly from home, I hate to try to switch and possibly end up with something worse and whose services are unfamiliar.

  23. THE HOME PHONE HAS TO GO! There’s no reason to have it really. It gets rid of cold callers too, and I haven’t regretted it since the day I decided to do it.

  24. I have been looking for more ways to cut down on our expenses. We have a already ditched our cable service and landline phone two years ago since we have a cellphone and my family is okay with the regular TV channels.

    We do not only borrow books from the public library. We also borrow DVDs, instead of renting or buying.

  25. You’re right, letting go of cable service can be scary for many! I’ve learned that if you bring up a competitor’s price with any service you have (not jut cable), they sometimes will offer you a discount or promotional price. I got $20 shaved off monthly from my internet service and all I had to do was bring up the price offered by their competitor!!!

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