You remember when you were a kid and you couldn’t wait to grow up? Then you grew up and realized that adulthood mostly revolved around BILLS? Bleh! So many of the things we do each and every day, we do in order to pay our monthly bills. It seems like as soon as you get that paycheck all the money goes right back out of your account to get things paid. It can feel like a vicious cycle but I’m here today with my top frugal living tips for how to reduce your monthly bills!
Before you do anything else
Before you get busy reducing those bills you have to make sure that you have them written down! It’s super easy to forget bills that happen every other monthly, every 6 months and so on. So bust out a couple months’ worth of bank statements (6 is a good number) and just scan through to make sure you actually account for all your bills.
Once you’ve got all those things listed out you’ll have a better idea of what you can really do to whittle down that list!
Frugal living tip #1: Evaluate your bills against your values
One of the top errors that people make when reviewing their bills is not evaluating each bill against their personal values. It can be easy to sign up for monthly services, bills, and subscriptions because we think we need to, or we think we should.
So when you look over your list of items you pay for, does anything jump out at you? Are you paying for cable but really only watch Netflix? Are you paying for Audible but always forget to listen to your books during your commute? The road to debt is paved with good intentions. So if you aren’t using something like you ‘hope’ you should it may be time to let it go.
I run all my bills through the following criteria before I decide to keep paying for it:
- Do I use what I am paying for?
- Does paying for this help me live my best life?
- Does it bring me joy and/or make my life easier?
I came up with these criteria by starting with what I value. The things that are important to me are getting value for my money, becoming the person I want to be, being happy and making my life as easy as possible. So if something fits these criteria, it stays. If not, then it’s time to think about cutting it loose.
You may have different criteria that you use to evaluate your bills but you should have something. And the criteria should NOT be whether you can afford it or not (at least not yet). Just because you can pay for something doesn’t mean you should.
Action step: Once you figure out your personal set of questions, run each and every bill through those questions and cross off anything that doesn’t meet your criteria.
Frugal living tip #2: Review your insurance policies
Did you set your car insurance up once and never look at it again? If you that’s you, don’t feel bad. Most people do that. But you’re missing out on some serious savings, especially if you have good driving record.
You should look over all your insurance policies once a year to make sure:
- Do you still need it?
- Are you paying the best rate for the coverage you need?
- Do you have the right coverage?
As your life changes so do your insurance needs. When you have a car payment there are minimum insurance and deductible standards, once that car is paid off those standards go away and you are missing out on savings if you don’t adjust your coverage. If you are working hard to save up money for emergencies and can cover a higher deductible you can save money every month by raising the deductible on your insurance plans as well.
It also pays to compare companies, can you get the same coverage at a lower price with a different company? Sometimes we’ve signed up for insurance with a company because our parents used them, or there was a great deal when we first signed up but that has long-since expired. It can pay to switch!
For certain types of insurance, you can adjust waiting periods too. Disability insurance, for example, can kick in at two weeks or three months and the premium you pay is very different depending on whether you have the money to wait a bit before your coverage kicks in.
Action step: Price check and check for deductible/waiting period savings on:
- Car insurance
- Life insurance
- Disability insurance
- Health insurance
- Dental insurance
- Vision insurance
- Home owner’s or renter’s insurance
Frugal living tip #3: Review your plan levels
For any bill that you pick a “plan” for you should take a peek annually at what level you are using that service at (if at all). For example, lots of folks have unlimited talk, text and data plans for their phones. They like having an unlimited plan because they don’t want to worry about going “over”. But in recent years many phone carriers stopped charging such hefty “overage” fees and simply slow down your data if you go “over”. Now before you come at me with a pitchfork for insinuating you can live with slow data – hear me out.
If you look at your bill you can actually see the monthly average of how much data you really use and then compare plans to see if you can save by lowering your plan limits. If you consistently use less than 10gb a month then getting a 10gb plan wouldn’t restrict you and could save you some money too! The same thing can be done with streaming services, cable packages, bundled services, subscriptions, etc.
Action step: Review all your plan levels and adjust down if it makes sense
Frugal living tip #4: Equal pay is your friend
This frugal living tip is a bit about reducing your monthly bills but also just about creating consistency around them. For fluctuating bills like utilities, some months can be a big burden. If you have at least 12 months’ worth of data you can often request an equal pay plan from your provider. It takes what you used for the last 12 months and evens the cost out over the year so you avoid the peaks and valleys. If at the end of the year, you’ve used less you get a smaller last bill, if it’s more they notify you in advance that you’ll have a higher-end bill.
Creating consistency about what your bills will be helps you plan more for the future and reduces last minutes stress when your bills come due.
Action step: if you have been in your current location for at least 12 months, call up all your utilities and make sure you get on the equal pay plan.
Final Pro-level tip: Take advantage of annual/auto pay savings
There are some significant savings that you can enjoy when you pay for things annually (or even semi-annually). When you are looking at your bills it pays to see if there are any discounts for paying for a year at a time. If there are but you can’t swing the big cost upfront you can do a little math magic to get yourself on track.
For example, if you want to pay your car insurance every 6 months at a time you can set aside 50% of each monthly payment for a year and then you have the whole amount to do for the 6 months at the start of the New Year. Then set aside 1/6 of the total due next time every month and pay it when it comes due. So you’re still setting aside a monthly amount, but it’s less!
If you missed the post about 5 easy ways to save more money don’t forget to head over there for more frugal living tips.
You can also sometimes save money by setting up auto-pay for your bills. While I recommend doing this anyway since it makes paying your bills a lot easier, it is worth asking if there is a discount. I save money on my student loans this way.
There are so many frugal living tips and ideas to reduce the number, volume and frequency of your monthly bills and each of those areas are important. When you have fewer bills, that cost less, less frequently you can really create some additional flex room in your budget for something far more pleasant…. Like vacations!