6 Ways to Effectively Save on What You Pay for Monthly Bills

Tips for lowering household expenses, saving more for retirement, and generating additional income streams.

Bills

What is your strategy when paying monthly bills? Do you simply write out checks and submit electronic payments by rote? If you do, you may be doing yourself a serious disservice. Although the things that monthly bills pay for are generally accepted as necessary and fixed aspects of life, the prices you pay for them certainly are not. Consider adjusting your strategy for monthly bills and save significant money with the following ideas.

1. Make Phone Calls
It's possible to make an impact on your monthly bills simply by picking up the telephone. Call your cable TV, Internet, and cell phone providers and ask for the customer retention department. Tell them that you can simply no longer afford what you're currently paying - which may not be far from the truth. Have a few competitor deals on-hand that offer a teaser sign-up rate, and your chances of success go up. Just make sure you don't shoot for the moon. Asking for a 50% discount isn't going to get you the results you want, but being reasonable just might. I recently lowered my Internet service by $35 per month and my cable TV service by $15 per month simply by calling and asking. Over the course of next year that's going to total $600 in savings.

2. Do Your Internet Research
Make the Internet your friend and use it to research deals. Competition is stiff in all monthly service-based industries, and there are lots of companies out there offering discounts to get your business. You can also investigate rates on gas if that industry has been deregulated in your area. As long as you're not currently locked into a contract with a stiff early termination fee, you can save good money by jumping to the competition.

3. Purchase Multiple Services From the Same Provider
In the midst of your online research, be sure to look at all bundling options. They're usually less expensive than paying three different companies for your cell phone, Internet, and TV services, plus you can save on time and postage expenses by reducing the number of bills you pay each month.

4. Look Into New Charges and Bill Spikes
Pay attention to all of your monthly bills and the general amount you pay for each one. The numbers should be consistent except for seasonal variations in services like electricity and gas. If you notice a new charge, call and ask about it. If your gas bill goes from $50 one month to $150 the next, assuming there's no major climate change, inquire about that. Meters are misread from time to time and mistakes do occur. A spike in your water bill might mean you have a leak somewhere on your property that you're going to want to address immediately. Tracking your bills can not only save you money, it can help prevent more significant problems from arising, too.

5. Pay Bills With Credit Cards
If any of your service billers accept credit card payments, take advantage of it. If you pay $300 per month for four different services, for example, you can earn $36 by the end of the year simply by paying with a credit card that offers a 1% cash-back rate. It's not going to break the bank, but every little bit counts - especially when you're talking about free money. Of course, this tip only works if you don't carry balances.

6. Eliminate Services You Don't Need
Take a step back and think about whether you need certain monthly services. Are all those pay TV channels necessary? How about that expensive gym membership? If you're strictly a movie buff, drop your cable TV plan entirely and get your movies through a service like Netflix, Amazon Instant, or Hulu Plus. If you still want local channels, investigate a digital TV antenna. Try cycling or running in the park instead of using the treadmill or elliptical at the gym. If you can get by without your home telephone, get rid of that, too. Consider a service like Ooma which is much less expensive than traditional phone service. There are plenty of options out there to trim your monthly budget, you just have to do some serious personal evaluation followed up by thorough research.

Final Thoughts
Make sure you're saving time on your bill payment process, as well. Organize all due dates by contacting your providers. Set up automatic payments, but keep an eye on them - credit card issuers, and even some service billers, have a funny way of changing your due dates to get away with imposing late charges. Pay your bills online to save time, too. Conserving money on your monthly expenses is important, but saving time in the process can really sweeten the deal.

What ways can you think of to cut the cost of monthly bills?

Thanks to Brendan Wood for the photo.

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