Keep in mind, frugal is good, cheap is bad. Understand the difference.
- Lifestyle creep happens over time. We automate our monthly payments and forget about the things we're mindlessly paying for. Here are some ways you can be smarter with some of those monthly expenses.
- Get the best internet connection you can/need. I live in Minneapolis and we’re fortunate to have access to a fiber optic connection for $50/month from a local provider. I think you’d need to spend a little more in other areas, but you should be able to stay under $65/month.
- Buy a device that turns your TV into a SmartTV (unless you like your TV’s interface already). We chose the latest version of Apple TV and appreciate the fact that it has all the apps we need, has voice commands, and our phones easily control the device.
- Replace your cable service. Some people just use an antenna which gets them local stations for free, but if you want to replace the stations you had through your cable or satellite provider, you can do so for ~$40/month with several options: Hulu, YouTube TV, Playstation Vue or DirectTV Now. We chose YouTube TV, but I've heard good things about the others.
- You probably already have Netflix and Amazon Prime. If you want HBO, HBO Now is $15/month.
1. Cut the cord – ditch your cable company! I finally did this (Spring of 2019) and I can’t believe I didn’t do it sooner. I’m paying ~$110/month less than I was with my cable provider, who shall remain anonymous 😉. If you’re not familiar with how to do it, here’s what you need to know:
Total cost of this package:
- One-time expense: $169 + tax for latest generation Apple TV 4K – (purchased at Costco).
- Internet $50/month
- YouTube TV $39.99/month
- HBO Now $14.99/month
- Total $104.98/month
2. Replace fluorescent and incandescent lightbulbs with LEDs. The ROI from the reduced monthly electrical expense is huge. Over a decade, it can save you thousands of dollars. Helpful tip: You probably want to stay away from the “daylight” bulbs. These have an unnatural, fluorescent white look. You'd probably prefer the “soft white” version.
3. If you have the cash to pay off high-interest debts, consider paying them off today. If you’re worried about depleting your emergency funds, consider a HELOC (home equity line of credit) which will allow you to access equity in your home in the event you need it for a financial emergency.
4. Do you have a $500 deductible on your insurance policies? Consider bumping that deductible up. Insurance is for financially catastrophic events - not a broken side mirror or a stolen Schwinn bicycle. Consider moving your deductible up to $2500. The savings are big.
5. Pay your insurance premiums annually instead of monthly. This can save you up to 5%/year. Don't sneeze at that. A family with a home and two cars likely spends $4,000+/year on insurance premiums. That's savings of $200+/year.
6. Buy a cheaper car – Everyone knows that cars are bad investments, and if you’re going to lease that Audi S7, at least have the awareness that you’re being ultra-inefficient with those dollars. Do your homework and be sure you’ll value what that car brings. Be prepared to pay extra for insurance, repairs and maintenance, and premium gasoline. Buying a cheap car is one of the easiest ways to cut costs from your household budget.
7. Discounted gift cards – If you were going to spend money at that store or restaurant anyway, buy the discounted gift cards when there’s a special offer – it’s like free money. Just don’t change your consumption patterns in the process. Around the holidays last year, I bought a large sum of gift cards from a restaurant my family dines at every two weeks or so. The 24% discount made it a no-brainer.
Everyone’s situation is different. Consult a CFP® if you need help determining the best path for your household.
Written by Justin Dering, CFP | Founder, North Country Wealth Management
This is being provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell any specific securities. The views expressed are those of Justin Dering & North County Wealth Management and do not necessarily reflect the views of Mutual Advisors, LLC or any of its affiliates. Investment advisory services are offered through Mutual Advisors, LLC DBA North County Wealth Management, a SEC registered investment adviser.