Thursday, November 11, 2010

Money Saving Tips of the Week #8

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, here are a few tips that might help you reduce your holiday feast expenses.

*Accept help
When someone offers to help with holiday meal preparations, you might want to take them up on it. People often like to feel needed, and they may enjoy contributing a special dish to your holiday extravaganza. With seven or eight guests all bringing a dish of their own creation, you may be able to greatly reduce your food costs as well as make your guests feel involved and appreciated in the dinner preparations.

*Go to someone else’s for Thanksgiving
Maybe you’re tired of hosting Thanksgiving this year and want to leave it up to someone else for a change. This can be a nice change of pace, not to mention more relaxing and much cheaper. Instead of paying to feed the entire family and possibly friends as well, make a dish or two to contribute to the meal, maybe bring along a bottle of wine, and save yourself plenty of money in the process.

*Start preparations early
When you’re at the store, keep an eye out in advance for items you know you’ll need for Thanksgiving dinner. Buying ingredients (that will stay fresh until they are needed) when they are on sale can keep you from having to purchase them at the last minute when you have little choice but to pay full price.

*Reduce alcohol expenses
Depending on the types of friends and family you have, alcohol may or may not be a necessary evil involved in your holiday plans and preparations. Alcohol costs for such events can add up quickly, and be even more expensive, if not more so than the food you serve. If you feel alcohol is a requirement for your Thanksgiving, consider making a punch rather than serving straight liquor. A punch can make your booze go further and can mask a lower-priced liquor behind other flavors.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Last Week’s Big Cutback: My Personal Budget Cut

Last week, I decided it was time for a change. I’d had just about enough of certain utility companies continuously jacking up their rates (they’re so sneaky about it, adding a couple bucks onto your bill every three or four months so you don’t tend to notice it as much), so I decided to do something about it.

When I was working in the hotel business, I had the extra income to blow on superfluous items like the larger cable television packages, and fancy phone services, but as a freelance writer things are a bit tighter financially. Not only this, but it was just frustrating having to pay for services that just aren’t used or not used enough to make worth the cost.

Phone Service
My wife and I aren’t big on chatting away on the phone. We make the necessary calls, a long distance ring or two to stay in touch with distant friends and family, and the occasional local call. We’ve always had a land line for such purposes and bought a pay-as-you-go cell phone for emergencies and occasional use when traveling.

As of late however, we found that we just weren’t using our land line phone enough to make it worth the cost. We were paying about $65 a month for the service, which was making it hard to justify with our pathetic use. Half the time we are over at our in-laws on the weekends (they live 5-minutes away), and we can always use their phone for longer conversations if needed. Still, the decision to be done with land line phone service was difficult. We’d had it for so long that it was almost like a security blanket. But with our cell phone, we are only required to put a total of $20 every three months on the plan, which means that we could save almost $700 a year if we ditched our regular service. Once I figured that out, it was a no-brainer.

Digital TV
Next on the chopping block was our digital television service. I must admit, it was nice having 200 channels, but by my estimation we probably only watched 15-20 of them on a regular basis. We were paying $110 a month for our digital television and internet services. Since internet services are important to us, we decided to leave our high-speed service alone at. However, we cut our digital television watching down to the basic $20 plan, which mainly consists of local channels.

We also sent back the extra digital receiver for a television we rarely watched and for which we were being charged $7 a month. Overall, our cutbacks got us down from $110 a month to about $55. A 50% cut and one that could save us $660 per year.

It might seem a bit silly, but there are certain, more minor benefits to this personal budget cut as well. Each month there is one less stamp I’ll have to use for the phone bill – a savings of 44 cents a month, or about $5 a year – hey that’s lunch at McDonalds; a big one if I order from the dollar menu! And with one less bill that means one less check I’ll have to write each month.

With fewer television channels to watch this will hopefully mean better productivity for me, and it will be less of a temptation for my three-year-old to want to watch cartoons (we were watching way too much television). Now when he watches tv, there will be little choice but to watch the PBS Kids channel. I prefer their educational programming to any other kids’ channel anyway. And so…

With only two adjustments to my monthly utilities:

About $115/month which translates to almost $1400 in savings a year!