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10 monthly bills you can slash

Whether it's your cellphone bill, household necessities or groceries, there are ways to cut costs without sacrificing quality of life.

By MSN Money Partner Feb 1, 2012 1:09PM

This post comes from Camilla Cheung at partner blog Wise Bread.


Wise Bread on MSN MoneyBills! Bills! Bills! Sometimes it seems as if everyone's got fingers in the pie when it comes to your hard-earned money. Electric bills, water bills, cable bills, cellphone bills, doctor's visits -- the cost-of-living expenses never seem to end.


However, if you're smart about it, you can work the system and save some money on these so-called necessary expenses. (See also: "6 tips to shrink your bills every year.")


1. Cellphone plans. Do you really need that $80-a-month smartphone plan with unlimited data? Unless you work in social media or your smartphone is essential for your job -- in which case, consider asking your company to provide a cellphone plan, or look into writing it off on your taxes if you're self-employed -- most people don't need a smartphone.


I've lost track of the number of people I've heard complaining about the abysmal state of their finances and all the debt they have, and yet they are still paying for two iPhone plans per household. What if you saved yourself $40 a month and put that money toward paying down your debt? Consider a far less expensive family plan where calls between family phones are free. You may even be able to share with family members even if you don't live in the same household. (Do you have too much debt?)


2. Internet. If the extent of your Internet usage is surfing the Web, streaming Netflix movies and sending emails, do you really need super-high-speed Internet? Your Internet service provider might have a lower-speed plan that is sufficient for your needs but may save you $20 a month or more. Even one of the slower Internet speeds may be more than enough to stream movies and music. 


By the way, if you are getting an introductory deal on your Internet that is expiring, call your provider and suggest (politely) that you may want to cancel your service unless it can offer you a better price. It might extend the deal for you or slash a few bucks off your monthly bill.


3. Land-line phones. If you have a good cellphone plan, consider canceling your land-line service. Alternatively, look into one of the Internet-based phone systems like Ooma, Vonage or MagicJack. These VoIP phone systems feel just like land-line, have 911 support, offer inexpensive long-distance calls and often cost just a few bucks a month (though there may be an upfront cost for the hardware).


Personally, I use Google Voice, which is free (but doesn't offer 911 support), which I have connected via my router to a phone in my home. It works just like a land line and doesn't cost a penny.


4. Cable TV. I don't have cable TV, and I don't miss it. I can stream almost everything I want to watch through websites like Hulu and Netflix, from sports to my favorite TV shows. If you must have TV, consider switching to basic cable and bundling your TV service with your Internet and phone services for a better deal. Post continues below.

5. Energy bills. You can obtain significant savings in your energy bills by being more energy-efficient in your home. Insulate your water heater, and turn down the house thermostat by a couple of degrees. Do laundry using cold water -- your clothes will last longer, and you'll save energy. If you're buying a new appliance, look for the Energy Star logo, and see if you can get a rebate from your local water or electric company for getting a more efficient appliance. Oh, and your city may even pay you to let it cart away your old cruddy fridge, too (or you could sell it on Craigslist).


6. Doctor's bills. If you have health insurance and you receive a bill from a medical provider, don't just blindly send a check. The provider may have neglected to bill your insurance or sent you a bill "by accident." For instance, I received a bill from the California Prenatal Screening Program -- they assumed I didn't have health insurance until I provided proof, even though I was tested through my doctor's office (which has my insurance information). Be sure you know how much your co-pays should be according to your insurance plan, and when in doubt, call to clear up any misunderstanding. 


By the way, going to your routine checkups at your doctor or dentist is an important way to maintain your health and avoid bigger expenses in the long run. You don't want an unfilled cavity to turn into a root canal, which means more pain and more money.


7. Coffee. If you spend $3.50 on a latte every day, that adds up to $1,277.50 a year. At those prices, you could have an espresso machine at home and still save money. Save the coffee shop for special occasions, or limit yourself to once a week. Meanwhile, invest in a good-quality coffee maker at home for your morning java fix.


8. Groceries. The grocery bill is a significant chunk of your spending every month. I'll be the first to admit that I am not as diligent at finding bargains as I'd like. This year, my resolution is to clip coupons, look for deals and shrink my grocery budget by 20%. My first step is to create a coupon folder in which to store coupons so I can find them when I need them.


There are other things you can try too. Buy less meat and eat more vegetables; both your body and your wallet will thank you. Try growing, canning and pickling your own produce. Cook from scratch instead of buying preseasoned or prepackaged foods. Buy generic brands.


9. Household necessities. Almost anything can be cleaned up with baking soda or vinegar, which are cheap and natural alternatives to pricier commercial cleaners. Good for tasks  like scrubbing baked-on food off dishes, cleaning the oven, washing windows, fending off antscleaning silver and brightening laundry, these two basics will have you pretty much set. As for other household necessities such as paper towels, over-the-counter medicines, trash bags and toilet paper, opt for the generic brand and/or buy in bulk.


10. Credit cards. Not everyone can handle having a credit card. If you can, be sure to pay off your balance every month to avoid being charged interest. If you're the forgetful type, consider setting up automatic payments through your bank (just be sure you have enough money in your account to pay your bill, or you'll be charged by your bank too).


Don't get a credit card that you have to pay a yearly premium for. There are lots of free options that offer cash back, points or other bonuses. By the way, if your credit card offers cash back, you may have to claim your cash-back bonus in the mail. Be sure to do that to avoid losing the money you've earned. If you can handle the temptation of having that plastic card in your pocket, credit cards can work in your favor and actually earn you money.


In general, setting up automatic payments for all of your bills is a good idea, as long as you're sure you'll have the money in your account. You'll save on postage and avoid late fees if you forget to pay a bill. Also, some of your bills may be payable by credit card. If you pay your bills by credit card and set your card to be paid off in full automatically, you can earn cash back on your bills too.


How do you keep your expenses down every month?


More on Wise Bread and MSN Money:

Feb 1, 2012 6:17PM
If you have more month left over at the end of your paycheck you're doing something wrong. Housing isn't supposed to be more than 25% of your income per month.  Lots of folks bought more house than they needed, wanting to impress.  Finance companies were willing to let you go more deeply into debt and that's how we got into the mess we are in today.  Look at everything.  "gamefly saves my parents money." the commercial says.  Yeah, and if you didn't sit around playing worthless video games all the time you'd save them even more!  No game console, even more saved. 22" wheels?  Other cars roll just fine without them and to be honest they look bad.  I always laugh when I see a hooptie on the side of the road (with big ugly wheels).  You shoulda put that money in the running gear buddy cause chrome don't get you home.  I don't need a 60" TV, the biggest brutha trap ever invented.  Loud car stereos that will make you go deaf AND put tiny cracks all through the paint which will rust on you.  Real great. Some people's whole life-style is a joke.  Like they say, If you knew better, you'd do better.
Feb 1, 2012 8:43PM
MATTHEW MILLER:  I would like to add to your suggestion that buying only amounts you are able to eat before spoilage, is another way of saving money.  When the fridge gets cleaned at the end of the week, check to see how much food you throw in the trash.  If it's quite a bit, rethink the amounts you purchase.
Feb 1, 2012 8:07PM

The author makes some valid suggestions.  Most of my friends and I, for that matter, have been doing these things (and more) for years.  Not because we had to, but because we wanted to be good stewarts of our resources.  We have also been nuts about recycling items.  Our bank accounts grew beyond expectations.  I woke up one day and it hit home.  Being frugal becomes a safe and comfortable way of life. The transition may be difficult, but take one step at a time and you will be happy you did.  I remind you, the results are not instant, but rather, accumulative.


Good luck to any of you who have the desire to go the frugal and debt free life.

Feb 1, 2012 8:25PM
Being good about eating leftovers can cut your food budget in half too.  Or buying the off-brand instead of name-brand; $0.80 instead of $1.00 might seem like nothing, but that's 20% savings.  If you do that all year (on say a $5,000 annual food budget), you could save $1,000 right there.

I'm also surprised nobody has mentioned the coin-phrase: "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle"; words of savings.
Feb 1, 2012 7:36PM
Do away with the magazine subscriptions, newspaper subscriptions, etc.  I've had to get by on so little for the last 5 yrs, I've become pretty good at squeezing "George" til he squeals!  My "disposable income"?  I dont' have any. I can't throw money away cuz I don't have it to throw!
Feb 1, 2012 8:14PM
I love gourmet coffee and I can drink it every day without breaking the bank. I bought myself a Mr. Coffee machine, at Costco I buy a big can of Costco coffee, it tastes almost as good as Starbucks.
Feb 1, 2012 6:32PM
"From the Mass" What is about as silly as you have seen?  Find ways to save money?  R U just filthy rich and can waste money and never think about it? 
Feb 8, 2012 10:13PM

Has anyone tried drying your laundry outside - let mother nature save you money

Planting a garden instead of going to the farmers market or grociery store

Is it a need or a  "I WANT"  -  recycle  reuse or  give to charity

Feb 10, 2012 10:32PM

Regarding unpaid debts, a petition has been started on to prevent the return of debtor’s prison in the USA.  Once enough signatures are obtained, it will go to the US Congress and President Obama.

To sign the petition go to:



Feb 9, 2012 8:19PM
There are several magazines online for free some newspapers are online free. lots of free stuff online. I am cutting my checkbook buying each yr about $70 to $80 and stamp buying by doing online bill pay its free thru my bank  saves my hands to from filling out checks.
Feb 9, 2012 8:13PM
Also we dont  waste leftovers if you have any leftover cooked vegs  and or meat put in a freezeable container and add to it till you have enough to make a nice veg soup etc even if its a small dab freeze it. We also use leftover meat and vegs for breakfast  heat them up in a skillet and scrambled eggs and  cheese if you have it And you have a breakfast skillet at home for  far less than what you would pay at a cafe. never throw out stale bread or crackers grind up in your  blender for  bread and or cracker crumbs for receipes cereal too that has gone stale like cherrios makes good breading for fried chicken etc potato chip crumbs are great toppings for casseroles cookie crumbs are great for dessert toppings or for homemade Blizzards etc.
Feb 9, 2012 8:03PM
We have tried growing our own veggies , but we have to fight Ground hogs they love anything green So we gave that up. We swished to Majicjack phone  We got the one that  attaches  to computer, its ok but computer has to be on for it to work. We turn it off about 10.00 pm and turn it on  when we get up in the morning. one thing great is so far no telemarketer calls  or political calls and it avg about $1.70 a month at $19.95 a yr We will switch to the  wall plug in one after our  yr is up in Nov. Medicom doesnt give discounts after your bundleing deal is up. My Cable, Internet went from $94.16 a month and it also  had landline phone included for a yr. to $125.00 I dropped the landline or it would of been !80.00 a month. Its just outrageous. Ive been a over 15 yr customerwith them for cable alone you would think a loyal customer  would get some  kind of discount. never missed a payment in that time.. We also have tracfone cell phones it cost about $20.00 every 90 days each and we have double mins so every time we buy a 60 min card we get 120 min. We arent addicted to getting or making calls alot we also have web browser service on cellsbut hardly use it.. Vinegar is great for lots of stuff Baking soda is good  but  its hard to get the grittiness of it  rinsed off So you dont save alot when you have to keep rinseing and rinseing . you use  more water and thats not saving
Feb 9, 2012 2:23AM
Always had a garden.  Downsized now, but will plant one on my apt. balcony come spring.  All those little balconies, wasted space.  Goodness, start with a few tomatoes in tubs, get Scarlet Runner Beans, beautiful plants that will twine around railings and provide additional privacy and FOOD.  Get a few cheap plastic wastebaskets, put drainage holes in the bottom, a pole in the middle and grow stuff.  Compost your garbage out there in some container.
Feb 1, 2012 5:40PM
This is about as silly as anything I have seen. 
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