There are few things in life as satisfying (or as elusive) as a raise in pay. However, most of us overlook simple things that we can do to increase our net income. As a full-time mother and financial manager of a one-income family, I have gotten a much bigger "raise" by cutting my expenses than I ever earned in my six years of working a full time job. Here are eight things that have helped me to "save a raise" of more than $100 a month.
Cut back on home phone services. Monthly savings: $14 I cancelled my subscription to the multiple services package plan from my local phone company and kept only what I considered the bare essentials, which were call waiting and voice mail (to catch calls while online). This saved about $11 a month.
I saved an additional $3 a month by eliminating fees like the $1.50 per month "equipment maintenance" fee (who waits for the phone company to fix a broken phone?) and the $1.50 "single bill" fee our long distance company was charging us to include their charges on the local phone bill. I called and requested a separate bill, since stamps don't cost $1.50 yet!Save money on long distance with prepaid calling cards. Monthly savings: $30 A friend told me how she saved big money on long distance calls using prepaid calling cards. As a member of a wholesale club, I buy prepaid calling cards for 3.47 cents per minute. In addition to the great rate, the cards can also be recharged, so you can add minutes and keep the same phone card number. Before discovering prepaid calling cards, my last long distance bill was $45 for 290 minutes. Those same calls would have been only $10 with a prepaid calling card, a $35 savings!
Be careful, however. All prepaid calling cards are not the same. Some have minutes that expire. Also, not all prepaid calling cards offer the same rate. I've only found the 3.47 cents per minute rate at wholesale clubs. Keep the card close to the phone so you won't forget to use it.
Monitor those cell phone deals. Monthly savings: $5 Cell phone plans are constantly changing. If you notice your cell phone company is offering a better deal than you got when you signed up, call and switch to the new plan. I recently made a plan change that saved me $5 per month. (Note: Some companies start your contract commitment period over when you switch calling plans.) If you can't get a better deal with your current carrier, shop around when your contract ends. Your current company may offer you a better deal to keep your business. Some websites that let you compare cell phone plans are letstalk.com and myrateplan.com.
Scale back Internet services. Monthly savings: $9 There are many dependable, discount Internet service providers (ISPs) with rates starting as low as $5.95 per month. By switching ISPs, my monthly rate dropped from $15.95 to $9.95. After using the service awhile to make sure it was reliable, I got an even lower rate ($6.95 per month) by paying for service annually.
Look for companies that offer "live" technical support by phone. If you have a problem, those troubleshooting websites or e-mail technical support reps aren't really much help! There are several websites, including freedomlist.com that allow you to compare ISPs available in your area. (Note: It may be a good idea to establish e-mail service that is not tied to your ISP provider, so you won't have to change your email address if you decide to change service providers.)
Stop paying high bank fees. Monthly savings: $19 By moving from a bank to a credit union that offers free checking, free debit cards, and free Internet banking, I saved $19.20 per month ($9.00 monthly service fee, $8.95 monthly PC banking fee, and $15 annual debit card fee). In addition to lower fees, credit unions often have very competitive rates on credit cards and loans. If credit unions are not an option for you, shop around for the best bank rates and fees in your area. Those seemingly incidental fees really do add up.
Monitor insurance rates. Monthly savings: $23 Are you getting the best deal on your auto, life, and homeowner's insurance? There are several websites, such as quotesmith.com and insweb.com, that allow you to get competitive quotes on auto, life and homeowner's insurance from several different companies. If you currently have insurance policies with several different companies, see if discounts are available for consolidating all of your policies with one insurer. By insuring a rental house with the same company that handled my homeowner's and auto insurance policies, I saved $280 a year. Review rates annually to make sure you are getting a good deal.
Join a wholesale club. If you have a wholesale club in your area, the membership fee could definitely be worth the investment. I have easily saved more than the $35 annual membership fee on prepaid calling cards alone. I have also found excellent deals on photo processing, eyeglasses, diapers, printer supplies, videos and even milk.
Use budget billing for your utility bills. This doesn't actually save you any money annually, but it can make a big difference monthly by protecting your budget from the seasonal highs and lows of monthly electric and gas bills. Basically, your utility company determines your monthly bill by dividing your average annual or bi-annual usage into uniform payments. The summer I signed up for budget billing, the monthly bill went from $248 to $125.
So stop waiting for that big promotion and start analyzing your expenses and "saving your own raise" today!
Miriam Reed is a freelance writer, wife and mother of two. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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