Photo by RNM
There comes a point for most of us when you’re looking at the monthly budget, and after considering income and fixed expenses (contracts and bills), we don’t have a whole lot left over. You scratch and claw trying to cut variable expenses (groceries, fun money, unnecessary items) and consider starting a side hustle just to create some breathing room.
I’ve done all of these and after a while it becomes just as painful as you may imagine… You get run down because you’re working so much and having no fun. You start seeing the same scenery over and over again because to switch it up and drive to another part of town costs gas money. Then, inevitably, at the end of the week (or month if you’ve got some willpower) you break down, take a night off from the side hustle, and take the lady out to dinner and a movie.
Although she does deserve a night out, this leaves us right back where we started…
I’m all for cutting spending and increasing income, but sometimes we need more. We need another option. A more sustainable option. We need to get all ‘90s and ‘think outside the box’ a bit.
Monica and I took last month to do just that. We did a little research, became the squeaky wheel, and found ways to cut spending. Some methods were pretty standard and others were unorthodox, but in either case our squeaky wheel got a good amount of grease. Here’s exactly what we did to cut $200.60 from our typical spending amount last month.
We asked to spend less.
I literally called up verizon, DirecTV, Uverse, and another company I’ll mention below to flex my ‘longstanding customer who’s ready to leave’ muscle. You know what? It worked. And all it took was about 10 minutes per company.
Some companies require a little extra fight from you to get a price reduction while others are seeing an influx of less expensive competition and are then more easily ‘persuaded’ to lower your bill. In either case, come prepared for your phone calls.
For verizon specifically ($15.00) they’ve seen competitors offering a similar service at a much less expensive price. I only had to ask, “Is there anything you can do to lower my bill and not change the services?” They offered a $15.00/month discount for 12 months. If you get any pushback, do 5 minutes of research beforehand and reference Cricket Wireless, T-Mobile, or another similar service and their greatly reduced prices.
One thing to be aware of – If you’re not living near a big city, the coverage for these alternative options may not be comparable.
The Verizons of the world don’t need to know that though. Sound convincing and determined, and you should see improvements.
With DirecTV ($15.00) the struggle can be a bit more difficult. About a year ago they had been one of the best customer service companies around (in my opinion). Easy to get the answers you need, services changed, and representatives sent out to your home… Then they were purchased by AT&T. For the first 6 months or so it was brutal. Billing was changed over to AT&T so you’d call DirecTV, they’d transfer you to AT&T who didn’t have the answers and then sent you back to this viscous circle that was a Saturday morning time killing machine.
At one point my heart rate flirted with 100bpm (I wasn’t working out during the call) and my satisfaction fell to -12 on a scale from 1-10. I canceled service.
“This is ridiculous, I’m done,” was my approach. Their representative said, “OK sir, I will go ahead with the cancellation order.”
“What? That’s all you’ve got? You’re not going to try and keep me around?” Round 1 – DirecTV.
She was matter-of-fact didn’t hesitate to move forward. I told her to hold up, ended the conversation, and called back another time.
This time I had a different, better, approach. I asked for the retention department and then said, “I’m thinking of cancelling because the bill is getting too high. I’m satisfied with the service but can’t continue paying this cost.”
10 minutes later I had a lower bill ($15.00/month) for the next 12 months. Round 2 – Mike
I got the Weed Man to drop my bill by $29.95 for the first service of the year… ‘The weed man,’ you ask? No, not that weed man.
This is a lawn fertilization company that fertilizes the yard and treats for weeds and other less desirable growth. I understand that employing a company like this may not be the most cost effective use of our cash, but they do a fantastic job and our yard consistently ranks top 2 in the neighborhood for ‘greenest color and fullest growth’ (my own rankings). My neighbor has been at this game a while and does a fantastic job… I’ll unseat him someday.
Every spring, these guys and their competitors send out fliers and go door-to-door trying to get sign-ups for the season. All of them offer a great lower rate for the first treatment of the year. Because of this you have 2 solid options.
1) Switch companies every year to take advantage of the savings.
2) Find the company you like best, that does the best quality work, and say, “Hey, I can get 30 bucks off by switching to the other guy. Anything you can do to keep me around?”
I took option 2 and saved $29.95 this year.
We saved $16.20 buying new shoes for Clara. She outgrew the old ones and needed a fresh pair of kicks. We got ‘2 pair’ (Training Day reference and factually correct). In the spirit of ‘cutting costs’ month I asked the cashier if they had any applicable coupons, she said ‘yes,’ and the rest was history.
That was money we could have spent, but because I asked – we saved.
We made our spending work for us.
We currently use the American Express Blue Cash Preferred card. There is an annual fee of $75 but we are eligible to earn 6% cash back on groceries, 3% on fuel, and 1% on all other purchases.
Disclaimer – as a rule and obligatory must – under no circumstances do we spend money on this card that is not already in our checking account.
With that out of the way, anything we can buy with this card we do. The savings has been huge. This month I cashed in $150.00 in cash back rewards. We paid $0.00 in interest. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and say we paid the annual fee this month and we still saved $75.00.
In prepping for this article I checked out our annual statement from 2015 and saw that we earned $825.00 in cash back rewards last year!! Take out the annual fee and that’s still $750!!
That’s free money and if they’re giving it away – I’m game to take it. We are buying those groceries, gas, and other items regardless, why not get additional savings?
We also use our grocery store’s fuel points system. This month we had earned a free tank of gas. Add $32.78 to the tally please.
When you add the fact we earn 6% cash back on grocery purchases to the ability of using the fuel points system, that equates to a small boat-load of savings. Even if it’s a row-boat that’s still a boat.
We shopped around.
I asked our insurance agent if the premiums we were paying was the best he could do on pricing. After a few days he got back to me and said that was as low as he could go (what we had been paying).
Hey, I tried, right? Wrong.
I called up a few competitors (3) to see what their quotes would look like. I asked for quotes in auto, homeowners, and some other insurances we have. This wouldn’t be an ‘easy’ thing to switch over but I thought if the savings could be significant – that would be worth it.
2 called back with bad news… 1 called back to let me know they could save us $200/year. We now have different insurance cards but with the same coverage we are paying a lower rate. 200 bucks is 200 bucks.
That’s $16.67/month for those keeping track at home.
We tried a few other options and saved money.
We cut a few coupons.
We used forgotten gift cards.
I didn’t include these in the tally because I didn’t coupon very hard and finding gift cards is not a sustainable cost savings method.
We saved $200.60 in total and I probably spent 2 hours working for that… Many of those savings will be carried over for the remainder of the year.
The point here is that the persistent one, the one who seeks out opportunity to save money, is the one that can see a multitude of small savings add up to big results.
What’s stopping you from asking to save money???
Thanks for reading! Did you think of another cost savings method we forgot to mention? Let us know in the comments section!
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