How To Slash Your Bills and Get Your Expenses Under Control


In January, many people are looking to take care of their new year resolutions, be it losing weight, eating well and saving money. I have goals that I want to achieve in 2013, I have given up making resolutions as I have failed in a few months to keep those up. So I create mini goals that I break down from a one big goals so it makes it easier to me to achieve it and stay focused.

One of the thing I am passionate about or should I say, I am forced upon is to save money. When I decided to not go back to my six figure salary work and be home with kids, something had to give so I started reading and learning new ways to cut down on expenses. Some of my early favorite personal finance blogs were Simple Dollar, Get Rich Slowly and Zen Habits. Trent from Simple Dollars still writes his money tips with passion after so many years so do check out his blog. J D Roth has sold his “Get Rich Slowly” blog and I admit I do not read regularly anymore but there are some great articles out there still. Leo from Zen Habits has achieved his financial freedom so he does not write about money tips much but I still read his blog for changing habits and inspiration.

I have done No Spend Money experiment and written about saving money tips before, as 2013 is starting, I am looking back to find more ways to save money so that I can continue to follow my passion of being home, work at home part time and homeschooling mom to my kids.

One of the most expense that people now a days have is phone related that is to say, phone, cable, cell phones and internet bills that keeps growing. Ten years ago or so family needed only single land line phone and television was simple choice enough choosing whatever came in local handful channels that came mostly free. But now there are thousands of channels and programs for television are there. For phone there are multiple lines, data plan, test plans, apps, ringtones and what not. I am not even sure I am all updated with what is available technology wise currently.

If you add this for spouse and kids, bill can run higher and higher. Although, television program says “Must See TV”, there is no such a thing as I and many others have given up or reduced watching Television for good. If you still decide to watch it, you can let go of many overlapping services to save money on bills.

How To Slash Your Phone Bills:

There are a few ways to slash your phone bills and most of these tips will not cause to feel deprived either.

  1. Reconsider Land Line Phone: For long time, we kept up our land line phone just in case there was internet or cell phone outage, mostly in case for emergency. We have given up land line phone for using Vonage service (internet based) for 7 months and could not complain about it. Monthly savings can be $30-$75 depending on services you were using, not bad for saving $360 to $ 900 savings for year.
  2. Drop Extra Services: This tip seems so simple and obvious however, many of us are having so many overlapping services with cell phone and land line phone combine. This also works if you want to keep your land line phone service without costing you big in monthly spending. Example of these extra services can be, You can let go of voice mail and buy answering machine phone, you can let go of your long distance services and use cell phone for calling long distance instead.
  3. Talk Free Via Computer: I am not tech savvy, despite having an electrical engineering but Zenguy is master geek and tech guy so we save money through talking to relatives and friends far away via Skype, Google chat. These services are free and can be downloaded free to your computer. What I like about this plan is it is free, you can chat and also use video chat so grandparents or friends can kids and vice versa. Also, thing to note is that grandparent or any person you call does not need to have Skype or Google chat program, you can call cell phone, land lines on other side.
  4. Buy For Busy Talk Month: I learned this the hard way, as phone carriers have hefty fees and charge if you go over minutes. It might be better to pay some extra every month to cover your busiest talk month to not get these charges during high usage month. If you do not plan this, just be careful to stay within your allowed minutes to not get charge ridiculous amount of fees.
  5. Shop around: I like being loyal to my family, friends but I have learned hard way to remain loyal to a company. I used AT&T for 8 years as I really liked them and what they did for that loyalty? They charged me crazy amount, so reluctantly I left, only to be offered same deal that I was asking them while being a customer.  Since that incidents, I always shop around to see best deals and choose phone company that works for my budget and customer services.
  6. Ignore Texting: In US texting is not free, unlike a few Asian countries. A relative from India sent us text messages and only to read those it ended up costing us $35. So, if you have teenagers or relatives who get free texting, be careful and avoid these texting charges either by ignoring those or reading text messages through some free reading services.
  7. Be careful for Roaming Charges: If you travel out of town or country, be very very careful of using your cell phone. It is almost always a good idea to get local cell phone or have roaming service plan added (if you travel a lot). Otherwise you will be billed $1-$5 per minutes, I have once read a news regarding someone getting a roaming charges for $12,100. (I am unable to find that news link now, but I am sure you may see those once in awhile too) So don’t be one of those statistics and save money by using local phone services instead.

Slash Your Cable and Movies Bills:

I love watching movies and a few Television series such as from BBC, A&E and Master Piece Theater. So, one does not have to give up watching their favorite TV shows or movies just to cut down on expenses. There are many ways to save and cut the bill in half or even more.

  1. Let Go of Premium Channels: Having premium channels such as HBO, Showtime, AMC can cost about $10-$15 each monthly. In most cases you can watch these movies through Netflix, or DVD rental. Now netflix gets DVD released movie much faster so you will still get to see it early.
  2. Track Your Watching: If you really note down how you or family tend to watch, such as which channels, how often you may cut down on other unwatched and UN-necessary channels from your services. Sometimes you may even find that you’re not watching as much cable as you thought, and in that case you can let go of cable services.
  3. Ask For Discounts: If you like to keep some favorite channels or services, ask the provider for discount or better offer. In some cases the company want to keep you as a customer and will negotiate a better deals and other case some stone- hearted company may ask you to cancel and in such case you can choose other provider or wait for a few months to really see before you sign up for new plan.
  4. Day has only 24 hours: Remember, having so many channels and movies choices may be futile as even if we watched one movie a day (2-3 hours each), we will not finish all movies produced and released and same thing with television series. So pick what you truly like that is best for your time. Watching TV and Movie all day no matter how much you like would not be a good thing for anyone.
  5. Buy HDMI Cable: I learned this from Zenguy as I would not know what it was. Thing is this HDMI cable costs like $5 or so and you can connect your computer to television. That allows us to watch free shows from network downloaded. Do not ask me how it works yet but I know it is time and big money saver for little cost. (I will update it once I find out how it works here)
  6. Skip Subscription Plans: Netflix, itunes and Amazon video on demand subscription plan varies and can be useful if you watch lot of movies or occasional movies here and there. In some cases, skipping the subscription plans and getting movies from red box or local store may be a better deal. If you do not mind getting new movies later, and somewhat less choices local library is also a good place to get movies and television series rentals.
  7. Watch it Free on Internet: There are many places such as you tube, hulu and other video sites where you can watch movies and television series for free. Remember, you tube have free and cost movie rental both. You can just view free movies there. The one problem I see is sometimes movies can be removed by copyright violation so it might be gone. I have watched a few movies on you tube movie section and I buy only movies that I like to see it again and again from amazon when deals comes in.

How to Save Money On Internet:

It has been said that over 70% of household have an internet access. That means many of us can find ways to slash our internet bills so we can still save money and still read best blogs, deals and news online.

  1. Group Services Together: Sometimes going with same company and grouping services can reduce your bills significantly. Many company nowadays offer bundle on land line, cell phone and internet services. In some cases doing individual service and billing may work however in most cases grouping services together works the best.
  2. Use library or free Wifi Cafe: Unless you’re buying unlimited internet data usage, you can save money by occasionally using library or free WiFI-cafe for internet for supplementing using internet.
  3. Get a Tablet: Many tablet users who use tablet and watch movies together, so why just use tablet for everything. There are so many apps for iphone and android that can help as free channel guide can be helpful. According to CNN post, replacing your cable with tablet can pay off in 7 months or so and with tablet one can do many things
  4. Know Competing Offers: In many cases most great offers are for new customers and not current customers, so know your offers from your internet providers as well as from competition every 6 months or so. Then call your provider and ask to match the deal, if they do great if not, switch to another company.
  5. Check for Overlap In services: If  you are using smart phone data plan and broadband internet services both, you have overlap in service plans. If you only play occasional games at home, 3G wireless service is not needed. Checking this overlap and how you use smart phone, internet and cell phone can save you $30 per month or more. That is over $240 a year savings on things you do not use anyways.

Enjoy using phones, internet and watching movies, Television series without breaking your wallet this year!

101 Changes: Change 13- Reduce Eating At Fast Food Places

I am writing a series of 101 small changes that we can make to make the quality of our life better and build and lead a more happier life that is in tune with our heart and mind. These are small changes that I have made and am working on right now, so I know they are possible for anyone to do.

If you have not read previous posts, check out a few posts on the changes from the past:

101 changes: Change 12- How To Find Your Personal Values

101 changes series:

Eating well For Healthy Mind and Healthy Heart:

I have written before benefit of going vegetarian and importance of healthy eating as we are what we eat and what we think.  However, in life many of us busy, stressed and tend to eat “not so” healthy food and junk food. I am prime example for it, as I have strong liking to potato chips, I like specially Tim’s crunchy chips a lot. I am working on reducing that habit myself.

Zenguy and I are vegetarians but we used to eat out fast food places, specially when we were traveling or needed quick bite to eat at tiring weeknight meals. Now, it has been over 6 years that we have not eaten at most traditional fast food such as McDonald’s, Burger King, and to some extent Subways, Wendy’s too. What made us change our behavior?

As regular readers may know, I am a book worm and I love reading all types of books, including non fiction. Some 6 years ago, I first read a book called Fast Food Nation and it influenced me very much, even though I was already a vegetarian. It was interesting facts on animals being used for meat and fast food teenage workers plight made me want help with my small changes. As I was talking to another mommy friend, she told me she does not eat at fast food anymore. I was shocked, how can one do that as eating fast food was not only convenient, quick, cheap alternative to eat when one was traveling or was too tired too cook. It was specially hard for me as fast food places were everywhere  to avoid it. Or so, I thought.

I never felt to eat meat, even when it was in menu, so why it bothered me to avoid fast food place when I saw one. With strong desire to overcome my issue, I came and told Zenguy no more fast food for us when I came home from my friend’s place, and he had to be helpful by not eating in front of me, until I gained confident enough to avoid it myself. Zenguy was not only supportive in front of me, but he too soon decided that he will no longer eat at fast food himself. Since then we have been 90% fast food free, as we occasionally eat at Quiznos, In and Out and other small mom and pops places. We mostly eat simple home cooked meals daily and leave eating out a few times only.

Biggest Fast Food Chain: McDonald’s

A few years prior  to making this decision Zenguy and I both were addicted to McDonald’s thin french fries, as no one made it crunchy like them. Of course, we has stopped eating there as news about McDonald’s adding beef to their french fries, after reassuring (lying) to public that their fries was cooked in 100% vegetable oil. angering many Indians Hindus all over the world. (As Hindus do not eat Beef). After much outcry, McDonald’s decided to use 100% vegetable oil for “real” to win over the lost customers. Alas, it was too late for many people, who became weary to trust them again.

McDonald’s since then tried to make themselves as healthier alternative for moms and kids by offering salads and fruits. However, being the fast food giant, they are surely has many concerns and issues from many health watch groups.

Here is an image of McDonald’s food label, which clearly says chemical known to cause cancer, birth defects and other reproductive harm is present in food, why would any clear thinking person would eat that food is beyond me.

Image source: Food Label

Of course, we all do what works for us at the time. Many of us are at our weakest point to healthy when we are famished, some other people may have little choice what they choose to eat. I personally think, one does not to stop eating at fast food place, but many of us can reduce it a fewer times in a month. Your health and body will thank you for it.

Need more proof; see below video on what in your fast food;

Here is a short video that shows that 4 year old burger looking as young as day one and 2 year old french fries looking good and not decomposing like normal, natural food will should. I am not sure, but many people would prefer them selves to look young and fresh and not their food after 4 years, what do you say?

McDonalad’s 4 years Burger

Many vegetarians and vegan will not eat this food anyways, but if you are meat eater this is must read for you. In addition, Jamie Oliver “Food Revolution” shows kids (see video here) what Chicken Nuggets are made of. This is food that is mechanical textured and processed to look like meat.McNuggets are really processed crap made to look like food. It’s all marketed for you to think your eating real chicken, but your not!  Recently, McDonald’s Reps have said they no longer use pink slush to make Chicken Nugget, what is included was not mentioned as far as that news report I read.


McDonald’s is not the only fast food chain that with health issues, but being fast food giant they seemed to be most watched by many critic and rightly so. There are many other fast food chain and gourmet restaurant that may serve unhealthy, deep fried food. The point is that we choose to put healthier stuff inside our body so we can be healthier. There will be always simple and quick cooked meal at home will be always more healthier and inexpensive.  We have only one body this life, so let’s treat it right and eat well and there are many ways to say health is true wealth. If you must eat at fast food, pick healthiest choice available there and start carrying snack packs from Trader Joe when you need quick snack fill up. There are many quick ways to make quick gourmet meal at home in 30 minutes or less as well (before your Pizza order will come).  Remember on January 1st, you may have made being healthy goal, do not forget it now, eat healthy, lose weight and save money at the same time. Sounds like win-win for me.