Do you live with the constant feeling that there’s more month than money in your life? Here is money expert Clark Howard’s plan of attack for your monthly bills to give you — and your wallet — more breathing room.
Clark Howard: Tackle These Bills One by One
With so many bills for things that didn’t even exist a generation or two ago, it’s easy to feel squeezed by everything from what you pay for your cell phone, your internet service, pay TV, streaming services, utilities, alarm monitoring and more.
It can all amount to death by a thousand cuts for your budget — but there are several ways you can save money every month!
1. Cell Phone Service
If you’re a creature of habit and you’re with one of the legacy wireless providers like AT&T or Verizon, chances are you’re paying too much for cell phone service.
Now, let’s be perfectly clear: There’s nothing wrong with either company. It’s just that so many more compelling offers from other players have popped up in the marketplace over the last couple of years.
Switching is the key to saving yourself a bundle of money!
“One woman I spoke to had been paying over $100 a month for a line of service. Now she’s paying $30 with a discounter and getting everything she wants with talk, text and data,” Clark says.
The market for cell service is getting so segmented that there’s sure to be a deal that’s right for you.
For example, let’s say you’re paying $70 a month for one line of unlimited service with Verizon. Did you know that you can cut that bill to $40 a month by switching to Verizon-owned Visible? And Xfinity internet customers can save even more by using Xfinity Mobile, which runs on Verizon’s network, at only $15 a month.
The point is, there are so many alternatives that can be so affordable. But even when you have the information, Team Clark knows that making a change isn’t easy.
“You have to be willing to stop the inertia of what you’ve always done and get on a new path for something better and cheaper,” Clark notes.
2. Internet Service
With internet service, most of us only have a choice of service from a monopoly phone company and monopoly cable company — if we even have a choice where we live.
Clark’s secret to lowering what you pay for internet is simple: Whoever you’re with, put them in competition with the other provider. And every time a special deal with the one you switched to expires, you have to start the process over again.
Yes, it’s a little bit of a hassle but you can save significant money, usually on the order of $500 or more per year.
Just know this when you’re shopping: Be sure you always get the quote in writing via email or text.
3. Pay TV
Cutting the cord can reduce your pay TV bill down from around $200 a month on average to around $60 a month. That’s a savings of more than $1,680 a year!
But there is a trade-off here: You can have a lower bill, but you may have fewer channels. Figure you’ll drop down from around 150 channels with a traditional cable or satellite provider to a third of that — around 50 or so — with a streaming service. Team Clark’s channel guide can help you decide which live TV streaming service has the channels you need before you switch.
If you do want to keep traditional pay TV in your life, Clark’s advice about pitting internet providers against each other for your business applies here, too.
You want to put the best offer from the satellite companies up against the best from the cable company and the phone company. See who’s willing to make the best deal at that moment. When that deal expires, put them in competition again.
“I’m giving you homework,” Clark says of his process of shopping and re-shopping. “But that homework generates potentially thousands of take-home dollars — tax-free — that you get back in your life.”
Depending on where you live, you may be able to shop your utilities, too. The more you pay attention to local offers in the market, the more you can save.
Residents of more than two dozen states are free to shop around for the best natural gas or electricity rates because their energy markets have been deregulated.
If you live in one of these states, the website of your state’s Public Service Commission will usually publish monthly energy price updates from all the providers. Use these quotes to comparison-shop for energy.
The rates usually reset once a month. You can typically lock in a fixed rate for 6 to 24 months, depending on the rules in your state.
Shopping for this stuff may not be fun, but it can save you a whole lot of money on a bill that comes every month like clockwork.
Remember, there is no difference between a therm or a kilowatt from one company or another. The only difference is the price! So shopping the market is so key.
5. Burglar Alarm Monitoring
The home security industry is another in which you never want to sign a long-term contract. That’s because the costs vary so much from provider to provider and the quality can vary just as widely. So it’s not something you want to be locked into — better to be a free agent.
Self-install systems with low monthly monitoring costs can be a great solution, too.
SimpliSafe is the leader in the field and offers 24/7 professional monitoring without the excessive fees tacked on by third-party vendors. Monitoring starts at $15/month.
In addition to SimpliSafe, there are at least 10 other self-install burglar alarm choices in the market. Get an overview of them all here.