3 Ways to Lower Your Monthly Bills

Do you think you’re paying too much for your monthly bills?

Ironically, you might answer yes, yet months go by and you continue to pay high prices. Over time, the cost of bills becomes acceptable. “It is what it is,” becomes the mindset. You set up automatic transfer payments and no longer have to think about how much your monthly bills are costing you.

Actually, with a little investigation, you don’t have to settle for higher bills. Start by listing what you currently pay for:  

Electricity, rent/mortgage, heat/hot water, phone bill, cable/internet, monthly subscriptions, student loan payments, groceries, gas, etc. Write them out!  This will give you a visual, and will help you see where your money is going.

Next, identify areas where you can trim. 

Here are some examples of how you can pay less in areas where Americans commonly overspend.

1. Utility Payments

Saving on your utility payments is actually quite simple. Although the initial savings may not be huge, the accumulated effort of small changes will amount to more money in your pocket down the road.

Here’s how to trim your bill:

  • Unplug appliances when they are not in use.
  • Install LED or CFL lightbulbs. These bulbs are about four times as efficient as incandescent lightbulbs, and they last for many years.
  • Use natural light, and keep the lights off when you’re not using them!
  • Install a programmable thermostat. When you’re not home, or when you sleep at night, you can adjust the temperature in your house to be as efficient as possible.
  • Dry your clothes on a line instead of in the dryer.
  • Only run the washer or dishwasher when you have a full load.
  • Cut down on time you spend watching TV. American adults spend an average of five hours and four minutes watching television, per day. Choosing a different activity will save you money in the long run.

2. Food Bill

In 2014, middle income households spent an average of $5,992 on food, representing 13.4 percent of their total income (USDA, 2014). Families don’t have to settle for paying such a large food bill each year.

Here’s how to trim your bill:

  • Can you buy store brand vs. brand name items? Choosing “store brand” or “generic” food items can save you an average 33 percent in one grocery trip! In fact, in 2010, Consumer Reports conducted a study to find out if store brand items are just as tasty as brand name items. The study found that, yes! Store brand items taste just as good. If saving money is the result, why not choose generic food items?
  • Will buying in bulk save you money?  Buying in bulk can lead to big savings, if done wisely. However, when it comes to perishable food items, think twice about whether you’re actually saving (or wasting) money!
  • Do you coupon? Relevant coupons can help you shave off a few dollars from your overall bill. This doesn’t mean you have to go extreme, but why not use a coupon that will save you a couple dollars on items you would buy anyway?
  • Do you shop when you’re hungry?  The best tip here is never shop when you’re hungry, and go in with a plan. When you’re hungry, everything in the store looks delicious and suddenly you have ten meals for supper tonight packed into your cart…Not only does this lead to wasted food, it also leads to a much larger food bill than you were expecting.
  • Start a garden! Even a small garden can yield lots of vegetables. Growing your own garden can save money otherwise spent on groceries.
  • Cook and pack meals more often. Reducing the number of times you eat out can help you save significantly! Think of eliminating coffee runs, gas station stops, take-out, fast food, and meals out.

3. Cable and Internet

I understand that internet is hard to live without, but what about cable? About 50 percent of Americans now have subscription services like Netflix or Hulu. It might be worth investigating how much cable you actually watch and determine whether or not it’s worth keeping.

And, do you absolutely need the fastest internet deal? Consider getting a slower, and less expensive, package. Or, if you don’t spend much time at home, you might be able to get away with using public Wifi networks and completely cut out your internet package altogether.

If you’d like personalized help on saving money and budgeting, you can contact our Financial Counselor. Casco FCU members are entitled to this free service!

Thanks for reading!

Mallory

 

 

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Has Budgeting Become Just Another Cliché?

Budget, budget, budget. It seems like the most overused and overstated financial tip.

“If you want to be financially successful, you need a budget.”

Starting with a budget, though, isn’t a bad idea. And it turns out that the cliché in this scenario, is justified.

The goal of a budget isn’t to restrict and restrain you.

It’s to give you a clear picture of your finances. And to guide you in making better financial choices.

For example:  if you monitor your spending daily for two full weeks, you will have a much better idea of how you spend money than if you look at your spending habits once per month.

Budgeting helps you see where your money is going. It can show you where to cut back, or, where you have flexibility.

When we think budgeting, we often think headache. We think “one more thing on the to-do list.” Actually, budgeting is one of the most important things you can add to your to-do list. At the end, you will have much more empowerment over your financial life.

And it doesn’t have to be difficult, or even very time-consuming.

In fact, a budget can be broken down into three simple categories. As long as your spending falls within the categories, your budget is in check.

The 50/20/30 Budgeting Breakdown

50-30-20

50% Fixed Costs

These are bills and expenses that don’t vary much from month to month. Examples would include rent, or monthly subscriptions like Netflix and gym memberships.

This category should account for no more than 50% of your total monthly take-home pay.

20% Financial Goals

Goals include savings, retirement, and debt repayment. Consider putting 20% of your take-home pay toward financial goals to help secure your financial foundation.

30% Flexible Spending

Finally, consider spending no more than 30% of your take-home pay on flexible costs. This includes eating out, hobbies, groceries, gas, and entertainment.

Budgeting best practices:

1 – Check in once per week. Set a date on the calendar.

2 – Readjust as necessary.

3 – Set financial goals. Write down 1, 2, 5 and 7 year goals.

If you would like more personalized advice on your budget, or on your finances, Casco Federal Credit Union offers free financial counseling to all members. You can visit the website for information.

Thanks for reading,

Mallory