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Reducing your bills is the first step to living a more self-sufficient life. The less your monthly bills cost, the less income you'll need to bring in, giving you more time to work on your homestead or even switch to a lifestyle in which the homestead is completely paying all of your bills.
A lot of people are under the misconception that they need to cancel everything enjoyable(T.V., streaming, internet, etc.) to save money. This just isn't true. Typically, bills can be reduced by making simple changes. Changing plans, reducing plans and just canceling unused subscriptions can cut a ton off of bills. Let's take a look at how to begin cutting that monthly price tag down.
Step 1- How much are my bills every month?
This is relatively easy to find out. Pull out a bank statement and a pen and paper. Jot down all of the bills and recurring that have charged the account in the past month. Be sure to include all of the bills including spending habits(like supermarket charges.)
Once you've got these jotted down, add them together. Now you've got a base number to start with. Look at your bills. You can more than likely reduce most of them with a few phone calls or some shopping around.
Step 2- What am I not using?
Do you see three different streaming services, along with cable on your statement? A magazine subscription that you haven't received in months? Maybe even a land-line phone you don't even have hooked up?
The second step is determining the things you're not using. Ask yourself and other family members when the last time they used a subscription/service. If it's been a while, cancel it. I had three different streaming services, but never realized that I only really watched two of them, until I sat down and thought about it.
Step 3- What can be reduced?
Let's break down popular bills that could be reduced. Phone bills, internet, insurance, groceries and streaming/cable services typically fall under this.
Cell Phone Bill
There are a tons of options for reducing a cell phone bill. One popular option is switching from a plan, to prepaid. With this option, one can typically customize their family's talk/text/data based on the individual. The same service is typically cheaper this way. A quick tip, most service providers offer a coverage map, so you can check if their service is in your area before diving in.
If paying off a phone contract isn't in the works anytime soon, try reducing plans/data. Give customer service a call and simply ask, "How can I reduce my phone bill?" If you can, go to your online account and compare your data/usage plan to what you're actually using. Ask them how much your pay-off rate is for your contract and if they offer a discount for paying all of it at once.
A cell phone bill and internet typically go hand in hand here, because it can be difficult to find reliable, cost-efficient internet on many homesteads. Remote internet services can be expensive and unreliable. Instead of relying on a remote internet service, research the options for a prepaid hotspot or using a phone's hotspot.
Some insurance companies base their rates on your credit. So, if you've been with the same car insurance company for several years, but have improved your credit, shop around. You may find a cheaper rate. If credit isn't an issue, shop around anyway.
Be aware that some insurance companies are notorious for raising a bill a few dollars every other month. This doesn't seem like much when the statement comes in the mail, but over time it adds up. A $10 raise every other month over 12 months adds up to $60. Check your statements(you might find this in your email) and see how much you were paying six months to one year ago.
Simply calling and asking, "How can I reduce my bill?" can go a long way as well. Most insurance companies offer some type of discount, based on driving habits, age, student status, etc. Just be aware of price hikes, giving a false sense of a "discount."
Streaming services are typically the answer to a high cable bill, but not always. Some people still enjoy starting their mornings with a cup of coffee and the local news. If the local channels are what's keeping you from switching to streaming services completely, try this cool little product. It doesn't require a subscription, only the original purchase price. No surprise fees or a monthly bill. It's a modern antenna that picks up local channels. With this, I picked up super clear channels from a town 37 miles away. They claim it will pick up channels from 118 miles away!
Another option, which I'm currently using, is YouTube TV. I do believe Hulu offers a similar service, but I'm not familiar with it. YouTube TV tunes to my location and gives me local channels and more! They recently even added kid's channels. It costs me $64.99/month and I can customize it by adding channel packages. That means I only pay for the packages I watch, not for random channels that typically come with cable.
Otherwise, a combination of streaming services and a TV platform can be cheaper than cable. Plus, with streaming, it's on demand and constantly updating. Plus, fewer or no commercials, which is always a plus. My streaming/TV services cost me a total of $77.98 a month, which is significantly lower than any cable bill I've ever had. With the antenna I mention above, I could be paying significantly less, but there's still a few channels outside of just the basics that we enjoy. Anybody else need to catch The Walking Dead as soon as it comes on?
This is typically one of the hardest areas to save money. Outside of growing your own food, it's difficult to reduce a grocery bill, since most local stores are competing, they're charging similar prices.
The biggest way I've found to reduce bills, is to buy in bulk. If you don't live around a bulk store, sometimes online is the way to go. An Amazon Prime/Pantry account can be worth it's weight in gold. Another method is to buy fresh produce in bulk and can it yourself. Buying bulk dried goods and storing them is an excellent way of saving money, too.
What can't be reduced?
Obviously, there are a few things that you can't just change with a phone call. Your mortgage, utility bills or even a car note may fall under this. Unless you're planning on moving, refinancing, installing solar panels or a rainwater collection system, these may pretty well stay the same. That doesn't mean you still can't reduce your other bills, though!
Step 4- Evaluating and Setting Goals
Now that you have some new numbers to work with, add those up and see what the base number is. Now, not only have you saved money, but you can now develop goals to work toward. A good goal may be paying off a phone contract and switching to prepaid/switching services.
You may even find that now you've freed up money, you can start saving more or even put that money toward other accounts (car, house payments) and pay them off sooner. If you have debt or credit cards, this money can go toward them paying them off. Not only will it help your credit, it will lead you to reducing bills for good.
Step 5- Maintaining Lower Bills
The biggest thing to maintaining a lower number is bills is to buying used. For example, buy a used car, instead of taking on a payment. For most large purchases, one can buy used or shop sales to keep that number low. For example, if you know that you may need a new stove soon, start saving back money for that.
Look for sales or shop the "dented" section. Many times these will have small dents on the back, out of sight, yet be discounted extremely. The biggest thing is to try to avoid putting this on a credit card or financing it. This avoids an interest rate and saves money in the long run. It also keeps you out of debt!
Step 6- Saving Money
I wanted to put this in, as having a cushion can prevent financial difficulties. It's recommended that someone puts back three-months worth of bill money, but with the financially tough times we're seeing right now, six-months is more like it. The good news is, this shouldn't discourage you. By lowering bills, this frees up extra money that can go right into the piggy bank!
Now you can work on not only becoming more self-sufficient with your homestead, but with your finances, too!
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