Six Painless Steps to Reduce Monthly Expenses by $130

Many of us stay on the sidelines of saving and investing for our future because of a perceived lack of capital. I’ll be the first to admit when things are tight it seems unrealistic to even consider selecting a mutual fund to invest in. The idea of ramping up retirement contributions when you are living paycheck-to-paycheck is even more out of the question. What if I told you that you could increase the amount you invest each year by $1,500, painlessly. $1,500 a year in a decent mutual fund could appreciate to a significant amount over a working lifetime. Here are six painless ways our family has reduced our monthly expenses by $130 a month. Some may cause a temporary sting, but over the long haul you will barely notice.

Reduce cable service to basic channel offerings. 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. Monthly savings: $35

books
photo by reeveb

Skip the bookstores and hit the library. 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! Monthly savings: $30

Carpool once a week. Based on last month’s gasoline charges we are spending about $190 a month on gas. That works out to roughly$6.33 a day on gas expenses (some days we spend a little more, and some days much, much less). By carpooling or finding another way to travel to and from work just one day a week we eliminate four days worth of gasoline expense per month. I’ve even taken to the idea of riding my bike home from work a few times a week to offset the costs associated with operating our second vehicle (and to lose some weight). Monthly savings: $25

Switch to value internet package. It is nearly impossible to function in today’s society without an internet connection. Gone are the days of cheap dial up access as broadband has just about taken over the internet access market. However, this doesn’t mean you have to pay an arm and a leg for the privilege of surfing the web. We found out our cable internet provider offered a “value” package at half the price of the normal high-speed cable internet package. We gave up some speed, but since I rarely download files or stream video it is barely noticeable. Monthly savings: $20

Lower your cell phone package minutes. Fortunately, many cell phone providers now offer in-network calling where you may call individuals on the same network for free, or a minimal flat monthly fee. Since most of our cell phone calls are between family, and we are all on the same network, we were able to drop our allocation of airtime minutes and save some on the monthly package. Be sure to analyze your calling patterns from the past several months (usually available online) before making such a move. It is costly if you go over your monthly limit on a new, reduced calling plan. Monthly savings: $15

Switch from baths to showers. This is a no-brainer for me because I gave up taking baths when I was a kid – something about sitting in dirty bathwater just doesn’t appeal to me! However, like most homes recently built ours is equipped with a garden tub with jets and my wife enjoys the occasional bath. And of course our kids both required baths until just recently. My oldest child has switched to showers, and my wife now takes baths with much less frequency. This small lifestyle change has netted us a small monthly savings on the water bill. A warning to other husbands and fathers out there – be prepared to be overruled here. It may not be worth $5 a month to start a family water battle, and there are other opportunities to save larger amounts. Choose your battles wisely! Monthly savings: $5

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