If you’re like me, you’ve subscribed to about 100 different little things online – most of which just take money out of your bank account every month. Like a lot of web developers, I’m sort of a sucker for little programs that promise to make my life easier (and some of them actually work). But there are many that I sign up for, only to stop using them a month later and forget that they even draw from my account. Obviously, if I had an accountant, he’d be tearing his hair out looking at my monthly bank statement.
Even if you aren’t a micro-subscription junkie like me, there are probably a lot of little things you pay for every month – those seemingly vital but ultimately unnecessary things you’re paying for without even knowing it. Even cutting just a few of these expenses can net you some extra cash every month; cash you can put in your savings account or spend on other unnecessary things – it’s up to you.
Cut the Bottled Water
It might seem like old advice, but bottled water really is a curse on us all, and it’s an entirely unnecessary cost that we can all afford to cut. Even at its cheapest, bottled water is an enormous expense. According to an article in Fast Company Magazine (Issue 117, July 2007), the average water utility bill each month would be more than $9,000 if we bought only bottled water for our daily needs – and that was four years ago. Even if you only consider “drinking water” (not the water in the shower or toilet), you would still be paying around $1,400 each year for your recommended daily water intake (eight 8 oz. glasses a day). What would the same amount of water cost if it came from the tap? About $0.49 a year in New York City.
So forget all of the moral reasons to avoid stripping third world countries of their water supply and filling the world with plastic bottles. Simply cutting down your bottled water consumption to a couple of bottles a week can save you a huge amount of money every month. If you hate the thought of drinking tap water or your tap water is unsafe for drinking, consider investing in a small filter for your faucet – which will get you plenty more mileage than those bottles of Fiji you pound at your next workout.
Trim Down Your Wireless Service
Most of us have Internet service for only a couple of reasons – to check our email and see what’s new on Facebook. If you don’t plan on using your Internet for high definition gaming, it’s pretty likely that you can trim your monthly Internet bill. Even packages that include Internet and cable can be too much for most people, even though adding Internet for an extra $49.99 a month seems like a great deal.
One alternative is to opt for a clear wireless Internet plan, rather than a big box cable provider. Simple plans with plenty of speed for browsing are cheap when using 4G. In addition, you use cell phone coverage for your Internet connection – not the same connection as your cable television. This type of service tends to stay up far more often than cable service.
Stop Paying More at the ATM
That sneaky $3.00 fee you pay to access your own money might not seem like a big expense, but it really adds up every month. In 2010, Americans spent $7.1 billion paying ATM fees – that’s almost $2 billion more than McDonalds made in revenue through the entire year of 2009. If you happen to bank at Wells Fargo, you face not only an ATM fee from the company that owns the machine you use, but another fee from Wells Fargo for not using one of their ATMs. If the fee is $2.50, for example, and you withdraw $100.00, you’ve essentially paid a 5% fee to access your cash.
If you need cash, try to use only the ATMs owned by your bank, as withdrawals from these ATMs usually don’t carry any fees. Otherwise, consider sticking to your debit card, or plan ahead and go to the bank before it closes during the day. Many businesses also allow you to get cash back with your debit card purchases – which usually don’t carry a fee. However, some tellers are trained not to offer up this information (the business does have to cover a fee sometimes), and you might have to ask.
Say “No” To Extended Warranties
This one always makes me laugh. If you visit your favorite big brand retail store to buy electronics, you’ll probably be offered an extended warranty on anything from an electric toothbrush to a big screen television. The warranty depends on the cost of the product, and is usually pitched at the checkout counter. Be very careful about purchasing these warranties.
If the original warranty only lasts a couple of months and the extended warranty covers you for two years, really think about whether you want to buy products from that store. Suggesting that there’s a good chance your electric toothbrush will explode in your mouth after only a month (making an extended coverage warranty necessary) makes me doubt the quality of the product in the first place.
Still, if you’re purchasing a highly priced product like a computer or television, buy directly from the manufacturer. They’ll usually provide a better warranty out of the box than your local Wal-Mart will.
Watch Your Utility Expenses
While, as we’ve seen, water is pretty cheap, heating that water is not. I won’t ask you to skip the hot shower every morning, but there are other ways you can trim your home heating budget every month. Most clothes can be cleaned just as effectively in cold water (especially if you use cold water detergent). Using hot water to do laundry is more of a psychological “it seems to get things cleaner” practice. Additionally, you can keep clothes from shrinking or losing their color by using cold water.
Finally, don’t forget to adjust the water level to an appropriate level when you do smaller loads. It’s easy to forget to switch the load size when you just need to wash a few items. Using too large a load size can waste water.
One of the most important things you can do when trying to save money is to find ways to cut costs without impacting the way you live your life. You might not be dedicated enough to start walking to work instead of driving, and that’s ok. However, being a frugal person is as simple as finding the little things that we can do without (or better yet, do more efficiently) to save a little bit of cash every month. Other than trimming down on monthly online subscriptions, what are some of the things you’ve cut to save money every month?