By Martin Fine
Almost all of us reading BAD have struggled financially at one time or another. Most of us who have found our way here try to spend more frugally, but it wasn’t always that way for me. There was a time when I lived with the attitude that the money doesn’t go with me to the grave. While living like the later may have been more enjoyable in the moment, it’s was stressful day in and day our when I didn’t have money to pay the bills and caused me to take out ill advised loans and to sell things I wish I hadn’t.
Here are some simple ways that I have reduced debt over the years.
Rent: If you are paying rent like I do you can’t be afraid of your landlord. Let the landlord know that times are tough and ask for a rent reduction if you sign a longer term lease. By doing this, the landlord let me save $50.00 a month for signing on for another year. A savings of $600 just for asking. There is a theory that if you ask you have a chance of receiving. If you keep quiet you will never know. Remember you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. If you are paying your mortgage each month check out the possibility of refinancing and getting a lower rate than certainly explore this possibility.
Water Bill: I found that my water bill fluctuated a lot. The culprits? Well showering too long, leaving the hose on, and not repairing leaks were some of the culprits, Addressing these issues have saved me $100 so far this calendar year (pro rated). While all of these “leaks” were tiny, when I tightened everything the monthly bills started to go down.
Electricity: Always know that in the summer and the winter there are ways to save on electricity. A few things like using less natural gas, pellet stoves, and buying energy savers like LED light bulbs and adjusting your devices. In fact there are over 100 different tips (PDF) from First Energy Corporation that I used such as adjusting my thermostat and saving $65.00 so far this calendar year.
Health Insurance: There’s no price you can put on your life right? Well, that is correct, but you also don’t have to overpay. I called my representative and let them know times are tough and again ask to save. While I only was able to squeeze out $5.00 a month savings when I pleaded my case, it was still an extra $60 in my pocket.
Renters Insurance: I never opt for additional insurance and you shouldn’t either. This is a tough call and I think it depends a lot of what you own, but I opted to cancel mine and go without. Renters insurance isn’t too expensive, but I needed to save every dollar I could. It was a chance. Had something happened, I would have been on the hook, but I thought it was worth teh risk since I didn’t have anything that was too expensive to replace. I took a pass and rolled the dice and it worked out for me.
Entertainment & Meals: When I was at the Naval academy I learned that the best food is free food. While only when others are looking for business advice do I receive those free meals. So when I am on my own I check out deals on Groupon and Restaurant.com which offer all sorts of great specials and deals for when you eat out. If you are not too health conscious shopping at the secondary grocery stores and buying the BOGO (buy one get one deals) always pays off. Once I lived off of Pasta, Rice, and Shrimp. I spent $25.00 and it fed me for a whole month. Yes you read that correctly. Maybe take a month to test it out and see how much you can save on food and take the Pasta, Shrimp, and rice challenge.
Gas & Car Expenses: GasBuddy is a site that you hear all about when Gas Prices are at all-time highs, but what about when they are low? Well that’s where the frugal mindset looking to pay off debt comes in. I make sure to save money by shopping out the cheapest gas year round not just when prices are high.
I had a difficult choice to make when things were tightest. I had a settlement that was paying me a small amount each month that I relied on, and I was tempted to cash it in. That would have been the easiest way to handle the situation. I considered it enough to search the pros and cons of a loan against my lawsuit settlement, but ultimately decided against it. I count on that small amount monthly, and if I cashed it out, I would have had money now, but lost the income each month. It initially seemed a good idea, but taking up more sound financial debt reduction ideas like the ones stated above was a more feasible long term solution for me.
The thing I learned most was that the easy solution isn’t always the best solution. Taking steps to make my overall finances more sound was the best move I could make even though it took a bit more work. Those are savings I will be able to keep without having to give up anything in return which was the best move for me.