20 Lazy Ways to Save Money

Single point of failure
Image by Paul Vivier via Flickr

Investopedia ran a post on 20 lazy ways to save money.  I thought it was worth sharing my take on the post.

1.  Schedule automatic payments. I do this obsessively.   I run all of my regular payments through my bank’s online bill-pay.  I think there are 2 bills that get paid manually; 1 is a quarterly payment, the other is due annually.

2.  Eat your groceries. According to the post, Americans–on average–throw away 15% of the groceries they buy.   I totally believe that.  We don’t throw away that much, but it’s still too much.  It tends to be the fresh vegetables, which we eat as side dishes instead of the main course.   We need to switch that mindset, both to use the vegetable efficiently and to eat healthier.

3.  Bundle services. I refuse.  I hate the idea of having a single point of failure for multiple systems.  If the power goes out, I lose my cable, but I keep the phone.   If, for some reason, I can’t pay my phone bill, I don’t lose my internet connection.   I like keeping these things separated.

4.  Pay off credit card. Hardly a lazy process, but otherwise…duh!

5. Mark your calendar. I use my Google Calendar as obsessively as I use automatic payments.  I put in reminders, grocery lists, or anything else I need to know at a specific time.

6. File your taxes on time. I just helped a friend dig out of this mess.   I pay as soon as all of my paperwork is delivered.   The IRS doesn’t give up and they have leverage, including garnishment and even jail.

7. Roll it over. When you change jobs, take your 401k with you.  Don’t leave it behind like a series of red-headed stepchildren.   It’s too easy to lose track of the accounts.   Don’t cash it out!  I made that mistake once and lost far too much to taxes.  A rollover doesn’t count against your 401k contribution limits.

8. Switch credit cards. If you can a good balance transfer offer that’s followed by a better interest rate than you currently have, use it.  But don’t forget to pay attention to the transfer fees.  Do the math.  If it costs you $500 to transfer the money, how much interest do you have to save to make it worthwhile?

9. Use your privileges. If you have a AAA membership, use it.  It gives you a discount on hotels, oil changes, car rentals, and more.   Read the paperwork. Former military gets a ton of random discounts, too.  Ask.

10. Rent instead of buy. Renting can save you money over buying, if it’s something you’ll only use once, but borrowing is free.

11. Buy instead of rent.  Rent-a-center is a ripoff, but they can’t even legally operate here.  If you’re going to use something regularly, buy it.

12. Ask. I love to call up every company I give money to and ask if there’s a way I can give them less.   Outside of chain stores and restaurants I almost always ask for a lower price.

13. Just say no. Extended warranties are generally a waste of money.   However, if I can’t afford to replace the item, I do get the warranty.  On my car, I brought it in for a full inspection and repair a few weeks before the warranty ran out and made all of that money back.    We are slowly building a warranty fund to replace the need for any future extended warranties.

14. Have the awkward conversation. We tried giving gift-giving the axe, but nobody enjoyed that.  Now, we cap the gifts at $20 and do a round-robin type of gift.  $40 for gifts keeps 10 adults happy.

15. Eat at home. Generally, I can cook almost anything better at home, but I really do enjoy eating out and trying new restaurants.  We just keep it from being a regular expense.

16. Balance your checkbook. What a waste of time!    With automatic payments and cash for all of the discretionary budget items, I balance the checkbook once a month.

17. Stick with your bank. Either use your own bank’s ATM network, or use a bank that refunds ATM fees.  I only take out cash on the first of the month, for the entire month and I do that with a teller, so this is never an issue for us.

18. Use your TV. Cable movie packages instead of a video membership?  Really?  That’s a horrible idea.

19. Quit those bad habits. I quite smoking, saving $200 a month.  I don’t drink much and I’m working on fixing my eating habits.   Vices are fun, and this is certainly not a fun way to save money.

20. Forget the pet. There is no way this would fly at my house.  we have 5 cats, 2 gerbils, and a dog.   Our renter has 2 pythons.  We’re a flippin’ zoo and honestly, mess and cost aside, we all like it that way.

How do you stand on these ideas?

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Ditch Cable and Still Enjoy TV

A cutaway diagram of a coaxial cable
Image via Wikipedia

Cable is expensive. If you have more than just basic cable, you are probably paying at least $65 per month or more, just for TV.   How can you save on television, without stealing cable?

The good news is that, in the internet age, it is possible to fully enjoy TV without having to pay exorbitant fees to the cable company.

Basic Cable

Basic cable generally runs about $15 per month, but it usually comes with a $10 per month discount on internet access if you use cable for that.   For $5 per month, you can get all of the local broadcast channels, including the news and weather, which we use in the morning while getting ready for work.

Netflix

We watch movies.  We watch lots of movies.  Spending $14 per month for an unlimited 2-at-a-time plan is a no-brainer for us.  It has also enabled us to scratch the movie itch without resorting to HBO or incessant movie purchases, which used to run $100+ each month.   When you include Netflix instant in the equation, which gives us a ton of older movies to choose from at a moment’s notice, we are more than covered for our movie obsession.

Hulu

Hulu.com has a metric crapload of TV shows and movies available for free.   They are moving towards a partial pay model, but most of their content will still be free.  But, you don’t want to crowd your family around a 15-inch laptop screen to watch something, you say?  Fine. We went to our local computer parts store and bought cables and converters to go from the video-out and headphone jacks on the laptop to the inputs on our VCR.    That cost about $30 for 2 extension cords and 2 converters.   We use the analog outputs, which allows for cheaper converters.  The quality after conversion is no worse than watching a movie in the VCR.

TiVo

TiVo comes with a Video-On-Demand(VOD) section, if you connect it to the internet.   It’s mostly free, with hundreds of channels to choose from, ranging from trailers to full shows and movies.   I have a season pass to TEDTalks, which are always impressive and usually inspirational.   There are many more channels to choose from.

Torrent

I’m kidding.  I’m not advocate piracy.  This is just search-engine bait.

As you can see, it’s entirely possible to save money on cable, without missing out on anything you care about.  How do you save money on TV and movies?

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