Next, examine your phone service --
particularly your cell. What kind of user are
you? If your phone's for short calls only -- "I'm
on my way home now, dear" -- consider a pay-as-you-go
plan like ones offered by Virgin Mobile. It has
cool phones, and, for a total of $80 per year,
you can make those kinds of calls and have peace
of mind. It's a big bargain.
Family plans are another possibility. Four people on the same plan will cost
about $25 each. Calls at night and during
weekends are usually free, so the small prime-time minute
allocation goes a long way. You just can't chat
endlessly during regular business hours with these
If you are paying more for home phone service than
about $50 per month for both unlimited local and long-distance,
you're missing the boat.
For those with high-speed Internet service, the cheapest
phone option is probably an Internet-based phone service such as Vonage
or others offered by cable or phone companies. These aren't subject
to the same taxes that wired phone lines are, so for less than $20
a month, you can get 500 minutes of service with lots of features,
including voice mail.
There are drawbacks. One is that
if your Internet is down, so is your phone.
8. Sign up for
tax-advantaged plans at work.
The possibilities include education, health, transportation and
child care savings accounts. If you're in the 25-percent tax bracket,
you'll be $500 ahead once you spend $2,000 in pretax dollars on
these necessities. If your company doesn't offer these plans, ask
for them to be added. It's a cost-free benefit that even the smallest
and most cash-strapped employer can offer.
9. Eat in.
Replace one $20 eat-in restaurant meal per week with a large $7 carryout
pizza from any of the billions of cheap pizza places in every city.
Better yet, buy pizza at the grocery store.
10. Don't bank
Pay credit card bills in full as soon as possible, and take advantage
of free bill pay.
The real savings can be had by avoiding credit card
debt and paying off what you've accumulated as quickly as possible.
For instance, if you owe $4,000 on a card charging you 18 percent
interest, and you pay three times the minimum payment every month,
or $300, you'll pay off the card in 15 months and spend about $500
in interest. If you spread the cost out and pay $200 per month --
still twice the minimum payment -- you'll pay off the bill in 24
months and pay out $4,800 in total -- $800 in interest. If you can
bite the bullet and pay as much as $400 each month, the debt will
be gone in less than a year and you'll save between $100 and $700
in interest over the other options.
Saving money doesn't have to take an ugly bite out
of your lifestyle. Once you put these strategies
in place, you won't feel pinched, because you're
not giving up much at all.