Slash Your Budget By Changing Routines

One of the easiest ways to go broke is to become used to spending too much on stuff without putting any thought into your bills and purchases. A few phone calls and clicks and new habits can work some wriggle room into your budget.

Kiplinger checks in with 5 ways to embark on a financial diet with relatively simple tweaks. Here are five ideas from the post:

*Spend less on groceries — Collect coupons and comparison shop for lower prices.

*Trim the fat off your cell phone bill — Try to get by on fewer minutes and cut down on texting. Or consider switching to a pre-paid plan.

*Boost insurance deductibles — Cut monthly or biannual payments by ratcheting up your deductible to higher amounts.

*Switch your TV plan — Satellite and cable providers are more willing to cut your deals thanks to increased competition and the willingness of people to cut the cord and watch all their shows online and on DVD.

*Instead of accumulating stuff, reduce — Sell off some of your old stuff online or at garage sales.

Stretch Your Paycheck [Kiplinger]
(Thanks, Laura!)

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  1. Darkneuro says:

    On the ‘raise your deductibles’: When raising deductibles to lower your premium, you MUST look at how much the car is worth. Not only that, but think about your driving record. If you have made some claims, you MUST think “If I have an incident, could I come up with the deductible I’ve chosen?”

    My comp deductible is $500 because that is the HIGHEST amount I can come up with if I have an incident of theft or vandalism (or if I hit a deer-they are prevalent around here). It also takes care of my windshield if I get a rock ding. I don’t have collision (car isn’t worth it), and my liability levels are higher than the state minimum due to the cost of cars nowadays.

    TALK to your insurance agent. Tell them “I want to decrease my premium in the smartest way possible. Can you help me?” and they’ll let you know what may be best for you. You can do the same with your homeowners policies, too.

    • Necoras says:

      If $500 is the most you can come up with for a deductible, then that’s a reasonable deductible to have. However, if you want to save money long term, it may make sense to take that $500 today (it’s obviously not food/rent money if you can come up with it on short notice) and put it into a high interest savings account (crappy rates right now, but better returns than Starbucks). Then sign up for a $1000 deductible and take the savings every month to build up to having $1000 in that account. While the savings account is building, you’ll have that $500 buffer, plus the $500 you can scrounge together to meet your deductible. Once it’s up to $1000 you can leave it there, or see if another $500 bump would be worth it.

      This doesn’t really make sense in my case (and judging by your post, not yours either) since my car is probably not worth more than $2000. My insurance is already pretty much as low as it will go on that car. But, for someone with a $25K+ car that isn’t 10 years old, the savings can add up pretty quickly.

      • sponica says:

        considering my annual insurance premium isn’t much more than 600 bucks, i highly doubt increasing my deductible would save me oodles of money.

        • tbax929 says:

          But it could save money for someone else whose premiums are a lot higher than yours.

          • sponica says:

            as much as I despise where I am, the one thing that is nice is the low cost of auto insurance. As much as I want to move elsewhere, I know I will cringe when I see my premium double or triple

    • wrjohnston91283 says:

      If you can’t come up with more than $500, you may want to consider adding collision coverage. If you get in an accident in a hit and run and your car has $3,500 in damage, how are you going to pay for the extra $3,000?

      • Hoot says:

        I think that’s why he said “you MUST look at how much the car is worth”. Maybe his car is only worth $2000. That would mean it’s totaled. I know almost nothing about insurance but isn’t car replacement a different item on your insurance? Perhaps he has that.

        • wrjohnston91283 says:

          I know almost nothing about insurance but isn’t car replacement a different item on your insurance? Perhaps he has that.

          It varies from state to state. Here in Massachusetts you are required to have a minimum level of liability insurance, and then you have option collision, comprehensive, and additional levels of liability. If you are a victim of hit and run, your policy covers your vehicle, so if you do not have collision, you are out of luck. You’re covered medically up to $20K/$40K, but you’re on your own fixing your car. Darkneuro’s policy apparently covers him in the case of hit and run, so he’ll only be responsibly for fixing his car if he is at fault. I’d still be worried about it if I were him, since if I slide off the road and total my car in a snowstorm, that’s considered my fault, even if I was driving carefully.

      • Darkneuro says:

        My car is worth about $1500. I have the comp because I hate windshield dings and deer really are quite prolific around here. Collision only applies if I’m at fault in an accident. If I’m at fault, I deserve what I get. There are some $500 cars that *do* run I can get when and if necessary. I may walk it (5mi. each way to work) and save up for a motorcycle if it comes to it.
        Hit and run is covered under my uninsured motorists, which matches my liability (50K/100K/50K). I’m covered for hit&run.

      • Fineous K. Douchenstein says:

        If you read, he just stated his car isn’t worth it. Likely if his car is totaled, he will have to find a new car, not spend $3500 to repair his jalopy.

  2. elganador says:

    Psshhh. I’ve contacted Time Warner Cable on two occasions asking them to match prices to local competitors that provide better service at lower cost and they told me, essentially, “No way in hell, and good luck with that” when they weren’t diagnosing my assertion of their dearth of HD channels as a technical issue which would require a technician (they offer fewer HD channels, even with their PPV offerings, than I can get OTA).

    The only thing keeping me from jumping ship entirely is that other providers offer an initially lower price and then require monthly equipment rentals which brings cost to parity with Time Warner Cable. However, they do offer much more content in HD, so it’s a better bargain overall. Additionally, AT&T DSL in my area is $15/mo for the first year for service that exceeds TWC’s Roadrunner offering.

    But they won’t match. They insist the discounts are built into the bundles, so they can’t mark them down any further. I asked if they charge any other price for the bundles to anyone else BUT the “discount price” and was told “no”. When I stated “Then it seems THAT’s the normal price, not a discount, so you should be able to offer one on the bundle” I got no response but “Sorry, we can’t offer you anything else.”

    I won’t even get started on AT&T dinging the crap out of people willing to do a contract renewal and wanting them to partially match offerings to new subscribers to other providers…

    • Necoras says:

      My FIOS contract was up and I called them and said I liked the service, but it was kind of expensive, yada yada. They immediately said “oh, well here, we’ll take $20 off your bill. It’ll expire in a year (on a 2 year contract), but just call up and we’ll put it back on then.” They made it really easy. We’ll see what happens next year when the first 12 months runs out, but they were very reasonable.

    • Necoras says:

      My FIOS contract was up and I called them and said I liked the service, but it was kind of expensive, yada yada. They immediately said “oh, well here, we’ll take $20 off your bill. It’ll expire in a year (on a 2 year contract), but just call up and we’ll put it back on then.” They made it really easy. We’ll see what happens next year when the first 12 months runs out, but they were very reasonable.

      • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

        Fios did nothing to try to save us with customers. They raised our bill $10 a month for a package that was supposed to give us highest speeds, but in reality was almost unusable. When I called to tell them, they said it was our computers. They didn’t offer to lower our price back to where it was (already very high.) They just did not care at all that we were leaving.

        I got Clear for much cheaper and have great download and upload speeds on those same computers that Fios blamed for slow download speeds.

        • apd09 says:

          I thought my FiOS contract was up last december so I called about trying to lower the price and they said I had just renewed my contract with them by adding cell phone to a quad bundle as opposed to the triple bundle I had. I was pissed that bundling my cell phone to FiOS renewed my contract without them telling me because I had specifically asked if it affected my cell phone contract they said no but did not say anything about my FiOS.
          They went on to try to upsell me for 5 more a month or something like that to the HD Ultimate package but otherwise there was not way they could lower my bill.

          I have seen the same thing all the cable companies they are not discounting anymore because they are calling the bluff but also making people sign up 2 year contracts which was the reason I never got Satellite service because I wanted to be able to switch if I wanted but now everyone has contracts and ETF’s.

          • Athena says:

            Get a Roku. One fee, one time to watch all kinds of shows and movies that are way better than TV anyway. If you need cable TV shows, then get a less than 10 bucks a month subscription to Netflix which streams to your TV directly through the Roku. No annual renewal or anything.

    • Macgyver says:

      The thing with these cable companies is that they caught on with people trying to lower their bill by threatening to cancel service. They just calling your bluff, cause in the end, they know you might not do anything.

  3. goodfellow_puck says:

    Haha, I’ve already done/do all this except the insurance, so I guess I’ll wait until the next “ah-HA!” budget advice. For insurance, I forced my chronically sick husband to get the better plan, despite his complaints that he hadn’t been sick all year!

    Two weeks later he’d been to the doctor and two specialists about 8 times, the hospital, and had surgery. The bill for all of this was obscenely low for what we were expecting because he easily hit his low deducible.

    So yeah, cut the insurance if you’re healthy. If you are a person who loves being on a first-name basis with your 50 docs, then not so much. ;)

  4. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    Wow. These are amazing. I’ve never heard any of these before [note extreme sarcasm.]

  5. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    Semi-regular deliveries from Peet’s, a good (burr) grinder, and a decent coffee pot will pretty much eliminate any need for Starbucks or whoever.
    Make your own breakfast burritos (make a bunch of sausage/onions/peppers up on Sunday, get you some flour tortillas and cheese and you’re set for the week).
    Get some decent food containers you can use in the microwave, and have leftovers or soup, sandwiches, etc. for lunch.

    • colorisnteverything says:

      Yup. I have a coffee pot at work in my office (I am a grad student and am there daily for office hours and work) and I have a moka pot at home. Between the two, I rarely ever see the need to spend money on coffee. Get some good coffee and grind it yourself. I put it in in airtight container (a week’s worth) and it is far better than starbucks.

      And I always bring my lunch. I save so much this way and it is good for those of you who may care about calories. I have dietary needs that most takeout meals don’t meet, so if I want to feel good and not have migraines, I cut out the carbs and bring a protein-rich meal to eat.

  6. elysse says:

    That phone plan stuff is great and all, but it doesn’t stop you having to pay when other people incessantly text you because they forgot how phones work. That gets expensive.

  7. Kishi says:

    I have to say that “Instead of accumulating stuff, reduce” has to be about the most blatantly obvious, least useful advice on saving money that I’ve ever seen. “Instead of spending money, get some more of it.” Got ya.

  8. Not Given says:

    I was thinking about keeping my basic analog cable, adding cable internet and dropping my landline/DSL. That will increase my cable bill by $50 but I will lose the $91 phone company bill.

    • tbax929 says:

      We no longer have analog cable available; Comcast has decided to go all-digital. It’s fine for me, since I’ve had HD for a long time, but my mom and dad were very content with the 90 or so channels they got without having to use a receiver.

  9. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    thanks for the reminder. i want to decrease my directv costs now that my promotional period has expired. but i can’t see new customer offers on the site, it seems to recognize my ip address even when i delete my cookies.
    but i’m headed to sams club in a few minutes and they always have a directv salesperson there who doesn’t know i have directv already. i think i’ll stop and get some ammunition!

    • leprechaunshawn says:

      Let us know how that works for you. My first year offers with D* will be up in about 2 months. I’ve been thinking of proactively calling them before my bill goes up to see what they can do to help me save a few bucks.

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        i jinxed myself. the table was there but the person was already gone for the day. no promotional flyers to pick up or anything, just a laminated sheet of channel availability

  10. ap0 says:

    I’ve been bringing my lunch ever since I started working. The only time I eat out is if I was out of supplies that morning. I save a ton of money that way. It’s almost disturbing watching the eating habits of other people in my office, though — people who already don’t make much money, spending $6-7+ per day on fast food (I spend less than $3 bringing my own, and I eat very healthy and nutritious food), and then wondering why they are 100+ pounds overweight. It’s sad to see how many people in my office need to use the elevator to get from the first floor to the second because they are so incredibly out of shape. I suppose that’s what I get for working in a middle-American suburban office, though.

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      I see that, too. I carry a lunch bucket, and bring all my own food, soft drink, or anything else I consume at work rather than hitting up vending machines or ordering out. What’s worse – my coworkers order lunch, 4-5 times per week, spend the $6-7-8 on lunch, and only eat part of it. They don’t even take the leftovers home or put them in the fridge for the next day. They throw it in the garbage. I just shake my head.

    • pixiegirl says:

      When I was in high school I worked at a jcpenneys salon and they would eat from the food court at the mall every day spending $5-10 on food and always ask me why I didn’t want to eat with them i was making $6.35 a hour. So when I only work like 2-4 hour shifts I don’t want half my pay going towards food. Once I graduated and I got my license and became a hair stylist they would still bug me about it. I would always tell them I don’t have money and then they would say but you got a lot of tips and I would expalain to them that I don’t want to spend all my tips on food when I already have food at home i already paid for to eat. It was the most frustrating thing to have to explain this to adults. I work somewhere else now and I only order out when someone else is footing the bill, other wise I’ll eat what I brought from home.

    • Not Given says:

      It’s the same in a factory I worked in. Most of the people who had the same lunch period as I, were eating from machines. All processed crap. A few brought their own processed crap from home. Almost every job in that factory was physical, standing, walking, carrying stuff from place to place, pushing carts filled with product. There were some people who had worked there for a long time that were 200-300 pounds over weight, you can’t say they didn’t get any exercise. It was the food and drinks, and probably stopping for fast food on the way home because the shifts were 10-12 hours long and people commute from towns all around, many 30 miles away or more.
      I didn’t work there long but I tried to get most of my food preparation done on the weekend so I wouldn’t have to do that. I’m not sure how long I could have kept it up. One week I worked 47 hours and the next week 40 hours, then I slept 36 out of the next 48 hours.

  11. PunditGuy says:

    These tips may have been useful in 2008, but now they seem quaint. I’m guessing that most people have done the easy stuff already.

  12. freshyill says:

    Drop your Netflix account down to streaming only and then use Redbox for new releases, because you’re probably not getting your money’s worth from Netflix through the mail.

    • Macgyver says:

      Netflix doesn’t have only streaming. I have the cheapest plan at $9 which is 1 DVD and unlimited streaming. The past couple of days I’ve been streaming 24, if I rented that, that’s 6 DVD’s per season, so if Redbox had that, that would be $6, I’m at the end of season 4. Multiply 6 by 4, that’s $24 in about a week or so.
      And with Redbox, you’ll also have to wait 28 days for new releases, and then only have a limited selection of DVD’s.
      Also Redbox only have a limited number of locations, so you would need to spend money on gas to drive down to the box to return it, or you’ll have to take the bus, if you don’t live close to one.
      So Redbox would cost you more then Netflix.

    • Lis de fleur says:

      I Think netflix is a far better deal, I pay 14 a month for 2 disks at a time and get far more than 14 disk rentals a month.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      That’s terrible advice. Obviously you have no idea what Redbox and Netflix actually offer, considering Netflix’s library is much, much larger than Redbox’s and Redbox doesn’t offer television shows, most older films, and the availability is confined to what is physically present in the kiosk at the moment.

      Plus, like another user said – Netflix doesn’t offer online-only streaming. Your point is moot.

  13. Extractor says:

    I have been using TracFone for almost 2 years now. In December I was offered 3000 minutes for $200. I have over 1400 minutes left. Before December 08, I was paying over $100 to Verizon per month. I was only using just over 130 minutes per month. I also blew up my phone in June by reversing the polarity on a charger. The new phone was $30 and I’m still considering replacing that one since the slider phone is much harder to use than the clamshell type. I was easily able to purchase a G27 Racing Wheel and Stand and corresponding Racing PC games for the Racing School that Ill go to next year with the savings from not having a contract phone.
    I also keep trying to cancel my premium channels with TW but they keep lowering the amount I pay and charge me $5 for all Premium channels.
    On another front, I have an ad in front of me offering an EKG, Carotid ultrasound, BMI, Cholesterol testing, Abdominal aorta ultrasound, and a few other tests at a nearby hospital for $75. I guess if you dont have health insurance, get this done to see if you need to pick it up for eventual Tx.

  14. Extractor says:

    Another no-brainer is to use synthetic oil in your vehicles. With Valvoline my ’08 Impala has a drivetrain warranty to 300k at only the cost of the oil and on my 2000 SS with over 140k, Castrol warrants the drivetrain for 500k (paid $100 when ordered the SS, synthetic option thru SLP).

  15. Sian says:

    Every time I try to save money by bumping up my auto insurance deductable, it comes back to bite me.

    Also I’d love to have a guide to talking my TV provider into giving me a discount plan.

    • Blueberry Scone says:

      That’s why we’ve kept our insurance company instead of using a cheaper service. Our agent has worked with us for years and she knows us well. Service is top-notch – as we can afford it, I don’t want to drop them.

  16. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I have cut back by doing the following:

    1. Switching to Skype for all long-distance calls, or using my cell if I’m not on the computer. I pay $2.99 a month for unlimited calls to all cell or landline phones in the US and Canada. I still have landline costs for DSL and the expensive phone itself, but at least it’s not adding to it with the long-distance.

    2. I had to cut out skating lessons for a while but now I’m taking them again. The difference? I dropped a coach (I had two). The cost went from $53 a week to $28, including the ice time. It’s not much but I need lessons if I’m going to continue.

    3. I keep emailing DTV to get them to drop the price. I’m actually thinking about really canceling this time, since lately I haven’t been watching much except reruns and most of the shows are available online.

    4. One newspaper a week and I’ve cut back on magazine subscriptions.

    5. Shopping at ALDI for most things. It’s cheaper even than Walmart.

    6. I’ve cut WAY back on my Amazon habit. It’s too easy to buy stuff there; just point and click.

    7. Buying clothes at the irregular store. I’ve lost some weight and need new stuff but might have to suck it up and buy from a department store or Walmart. It’s hard to find stuff that fits since I’m so tall.

    8. Go used for most things if I can, like furniture and dishes.

    9. I have sold some stuff, but it’s not as easy as the article claims. Most of my stuff isn’t worth anything and a garage sale rarely nets me more than $75–$80.

    It’s slow going, but I’ve seen a little money freed up so I can pay on some medical bills and a small loan I took out to go see the bf. Hopefully I can get all that paid off and then get a better car with a higher payment, and have some money to put away. I still have school loans too. *GROAN!*

  17. richcreamerybutter says:

    These lists can be helpful, but most of them depress the hell out of me. We’re already working incredibly crazy hours for less money, and so many suggestions focus on deprivation as opposed to having fun as you take a different approach to your lifestyle (I realize it’s difficult to shake Puritanical attitudes, but recognizing them is the first step to overcoming the mindset). BrokeAss Gourmet has some incredible recipes, along with price breakdowns of every ingredient. Although Brokelyn focuses on Brooklyn-based suggestions, they also have a lot of general money-saving tips.
    I also happen to be a weirdo who loves to make a day out of visiting grocery stores that cater to local ethnic populations. In addition to the produce selections and prices, I can be thoroughly entertained for hours discovering new products and translating labels. Typically I can find a container of Thai curry paste (red, green, massaman, etc) is under $2.00 and lasts me quite a while. Add some chicken, vegetables, and coconut milk with a side of rice, and I have a completely delicious and inexpensive meal. A little product research will reveal many healthy recipe options with new ingredients. Sometimes I’ll even walk 3-4 miles to a store to incorporate some exercise into the trip!
    Again, I realize this also varies by geographical location. The point is to think about what might both save some money AND bring a little joy into your routine. Years of crippling student loans (10% at one point, before gov’t consolidation was an option!) in a metropolitan area necessitated a frugal lifestyle while psyching myself into thinking I was “living large.”