4 Effective, Educated Ways to Save Money This Year

Updated on March 18, 2020
Saryn Blackwood profile image

Saryn Blackwood writes about personal finance and wealth, among many other things.

Looking for Ways to Save Money This Year?

Saving money becomes easy once you take the first steps. Once you understand that “living below your means” does not mean you have to live like a poor person or sacrifice as much as you think, you can save a lot of money. You've come to the right place to start. I've been doing this for a while.

Here are four ways to save big money this year.

Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash
Photo by Kat Yukawa on Unsplash | Source

Four Places Where You Need to Look at Your Spending

1) What is your cable bill?

2) How much do you pay for your cell?

3) What is your monthly splurging budget?

4) Do you have a car note?

1. Your Cable Bill: Yes, You Should Cut the Cord

Let's just get this one out of the way real quick. Any article you read is going to tell you to “cut the cord” and this one is no exception. Why? It is the easiest way to save money without giving up anything at all.

Everyone that hasn't done away with cable in order to save money yet has a list of reasons as to why they haven't done it. I'm going to lay the reasons out for you here, and discredit them so you can't use them anymore and so you'll cut cable out of your monthly expenses. For me and for you. If you can't do it for you...do it for me.

But I Will Miss My Shows...

No, you will not. There's Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, Sling TV, and a plethora of other affordable apps and services. One of them has your shows, and all of them are cheaper than cable. You will find a way to watch your shows the same way you will find other ways to save money – the internet and unadulterated determination.

Now, you may have to wait a little bit longer; you may lose friends from social media (and real life) over spoilers; you may even lose weight from not being in front of the TV quite so often; you might find other things to do, like hobbies. You are going to benefit, is all I'm saying.

But I Need the News...

No, you do not. You need some form of news, but you don't need TV news. I've been living without TV news for years and I am fine. There are ways to save money and still get the news; for example, get rid of cable and go to the news sites themselves. This is really no more of an issue than hanging onto cable because you might miss a few episodes of shows. All the TV networks people like to watch have websites and some of them have apps, where they play live news. The same news that is on their TV channel. Just like show people, you will get your news if you want it.

But SPAWTS! I Need Ma SPAWTS!

Okay, calm down. I understand. Dial it back and let me tell you that there are ways to save money and get sports. Cut cable out and look into something like Sling TV and Amazon Prime. I know that Amazon broadcasts certain games because they are always popping up with the start times in my feed. Sling TV also allows you to select certain packages that pertain mostly to sports. I'm sure there are others, but these are the two I know about. It will be okay.

But I'm Afraid of the Hassle of Changing

Definitely, there is hassle involved in changing anything about your cable services. Cable companies are a nightmare on the phone. I wonder why?

Why do they make it so hard to get in touch with a person that can talk to you about your bill? How come they say they will call you back and never do? Why do you have to go through so many confusing channels to get something fixed? Because they don't want you to. It is purposefully made to be a hassle, so you won't call. If you don't call, you won't be able to get your bill lowered or get anything else fixed; you'll just deal with it and pay the bill. They are winning and they know it, just by making it so you don't want to call.

Just go in person. Go straight to the nearest person, whichever department they may be in. Pick the department you think will have the least amount of wait time. Then tell them, “Sorry, I need cancellations.” Boom, you're redirected and there is no wait time. I wonder why there is no wait time for cancellations.

If you're afraid of change, I'm sorry. You're here though, looking for ways to save money and change things up. That's a start. Change is always scary, but we are human. Humans adapt very well. I promise you'll be fine. No, I'm not being sarcastic.

But I Got it as Part of a Package...

That package came as a “special”. A special that only lasts so long, or has already expired and is now costing you more money.

I lived with my grandfather for six years. Over that period of time I saved him $12,960 and change. Want to know how? I called the cable company and told them we only wanted the Ultra High Speed Super Internet Package or whatever for $80/month. That's right, he was paying $260 a month for a landline, cable, and internet. Just the internet cost $45/month for decent speed that anyone could use for streaming from multiple devices at a time and other regular use. I game, so I agreed to pay for half the cost every month, actually saving him more than I said. To date he has saved $17,280. I moved out two years ago.

Yeah, it's about $2200/year for cable when it gets expensive. And they'll just keep raising the bill. How much are you paying per year? How much could you save in five years?

We also bought and set up a digital antenna. We got the news and football games every day they weren't on CNN. We never missed a Thanksgiving day game. All that from a one-time purchase of just $80.

Bonus tip for ways to save money here: Cancel the landline. You're likely paying for two phones: your landline and your cell phone.

Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash
Photo by Jp Valery on Unsplash | Source

2. Your Cell Phone Bill: Pay Only for Services You Need

You may feel just as trapped by your cell phone carrier as you do by your cable company. The truth is that you aren't trapped; you just need to rethink what it means to you to have a cell phone and when you use it. This one is a bit of a lifestyle change, so buckle up.

Why are you paying? Make a list of the reasons that you pay for your cell provider. I'll see if I can nix all of those here. Right now you feel like you have no choice; hopefully you won't after reading. There are always ways to save money when it comes to the cell phone game.

Reason #1: The Best Service in My Area

I used to pay Verizon $150/month because I thought I needed the best service. Basically what I wanted was to make sure that my wife always had the ability to call me or anybody else. The idea of her broken down on the side of the road with no service was a nightmare to me. So that's why I paid.

It's true you need cell phones for emergencies nowadays. Although you can make a 911 call from any phone from anywhere, you might need to make other kinds of emergency calls; "Mom" doesn't come up as an option when you select “Emergency Call”.

But do you need a top-drawer provider with massive infrastructure to be able to reach Mom? The truth is that the smaller “off brand” carriers, such as Cricket or Boost Mobile, use the three major carriers' networks. Is AT&T strongest in your area? Cricket uses that network. You can probably get cell service for less through them. Check out who is the strongest carrier near you and do a quick Google search to decide who you might be able to switch to.

Reason #2: The Best Phones and Payment Plans

I have a $60 phone. It does everything that the $800 Samsungs and others do.

What perk do you actually want from your phone? Massive phone space? Get an SD card. Is it the awesome camera? Cell phone cameras are awesome ... I'm not going to lie to you. But if selfies and picture definition are that important to you, you are probably on the verge of a hobby and you can invest in a small UHD camera of sorts. Otherwise, the $60 phones take pretty damn good photos too.

There is a difference between a one-time investment like an SD card that you can take from phone to phone, and paying extra every month for an expensive phone until you upgrade and start paying all over again. The difference? A lot of money over time. Hundreds, even thousands, of dollars after so long. If you're serious about looking for ways to save money, then you'll admit that all the bells and whistles really aren't worth the cost. From what I've seen, costly phones are mostly about bragging rights and kickass photos. Get that camera instead.

Reason #3: Data. Unlimited, Unthrottled, Unchained.

But there is no such thing as unthrottled data. It's just a matter of how many gigs you get before you hit the throttling point. The big carriers can give you higher limits, because they run their own networks. Services like Boost and Cricket have to throttle you after 5 GB or so, instead of 22 GB.

So is it so bad to be throttled? How much data do you actually use and what do you use it for? This was the biggest decision when my wife and I were looking for ways to save money. Data is expensive when you buy it by the gig and we, like anyone else, love the internet and streaming. We had to take a really hard look at our priorities and what we actually used the data for.

Like most people, we used it for music. Our kids love their music in the car, my wife loves her music at the gym, I love my music on my way to work. We listen to music all the time.

We decided to go with no data. None at all. Well, not really. We get 1 GB a month, but we disable the network data on our phones. It has unlimited rollover, so one day we will have a ton.

For now, we stick to wifi, not the data on our phones. It's pretty much everywhere you go. Instead of paying $117/month, we instead decided to invest in the Spotify family plan for $15/month so we could download all our music. I also make sure that the antivirus is always up to date on our phones. We also use a VPN whenever we connect to open wifi networks. So we are actually saving $102/month with Spotify included.

That's right, my cell phone bill is $33/month for my wife and I together.

TracFone Motorola Moto G6 4G LTE Prepaid Smartphone with Amazon Exclusive $40 Airtime Bundle
TracFone Motorola Moto G6 4G LTE Prepaid Smartphone with Amazon Exclusive $40 Airtime Bundle

My Motorola has had service everywhere since I switched. I have not experienced a drop or dead zone. Tracfone has new smartphone plans as low as $20 with unlimited talk and text. I turn my mobile data off, connect to wifi, and let it stack with unlimited monthly rollover.

 

My wife said to me, “We need a TV in this bedroom.”

So I bought a bendy arm nightstand clampy thing for $15, and it's amazing.

3. Rethink Your Purchases and Buy "Need" Versus "Want"

We were always trying to watch shows together in bed using our phone. We would try to prop the phone up between us on its popsocket or kickstand, or lean it into a bundle of blankets just right, but inevitably one of us would shift and it would fall over. In the end, one of us would be holding the phone and trade it off when our arm got tired. It got uncomfortable when we both had to lay on one side to watch.

So my wife said to me, “We need a TV in this bedroom.”

So what did I do? Well, smart TVs are super affordable right now. If you're looking for ways to save money when buying a TV, you don't need to look far. I'm pretty sure I've seen 55'' Roku televisions in the ballpark of like $400. But instead I bought a bendy-arm nightstand clampy thing for $15, and it's amazing.

It clamps onto the edge of the end table and you can bend it above you, or right in front of your face, wherever. When you are done, you bend it out of the way.

Does it look funny? Sure. It's just different than what people are used to.

What are the benefits here? It's portable. I can put it on either nightstand, on my shower door (though i wouldn't recommend it with all the steam), or on my kitchen counter. It was one of the best ways to save money that I've ever taken advantage of, because it's not taking up any space like a giant TV would, and it doesn't use any extra power either, which keeps my utility bill low. So it's portable, space saving, and money saving. All I had to do was change the way I looked at the situation.

Does this tie up my phone while I'm watching stuff? No, because (drum roll) here's another bonus tip when it comes to ways of saving money: repurpose your old technology. What have I done with all those other $60 phones from the past? Well, I can't sell them, because everyone is all stuck up about what Android version they are running so no one will take them for $25 or even for free.

But they still play Netflix and all the other streaming services I have, so I use one as my bendy arm nightstand clampy thing TV. Problem solved. Now I can eat popcorn and scroll on my phone while I watch my shows in my yoga pants, like normal people do.

Gooseneck Cell Phone Holder, SAIJI Universal Clamp Lazy Phone Stand with Flexible Long Arm Bracket Grip for 4.0-6.3 Phones Mobile Stand Baby Monitor for Desk, Bed, Office, Kitchen (Black)
Gooseneck Cell Phone Holder, SAIJI Universal Clamp Lazy Phone Stand with Flexible Long Arm Bracket Grip for 4.0-6.3 Phones Mobile Stand Baby Monitor for Desk, Bed, Office, Kitchen (Black)

This is the cell phone holder I use to watch shows in my bedroom. I've had it for well over a year and it still stays in position wherever I bend it. It is one of the best frugal purchases I have made over the years. (Comes in pink!)

 
This is what I feel like when not buying a TV. Photo by Anjo Clacino on Unsplash
This is what I feel like when not buying a TV. Photo by Anjo Clacino on Unsplash | Source

4. Don't Make Car Payments

This is another choice that scares people. It's another one that requires a lifestyle change. It's an awful lot like the cell phone thing in my opinion.

After all, what is a car, to you, other than a means to get from point A to point B? I work with some young men who make good money and spend a lot of money, obscene amounts of money, on their vehicles: the new car, the turbos, the radios and subs, the bragging rights. But none of that will matter to them one day when they need that money.

You may not go crazy adding all the bells and whistles to your car that these guys do, but you might be making a car payment. And that could be a mistake, becauwe Living without a car payment is one of the top ways to save money, because it is almost always the most expensive.

My mother buys a car, pays it off for four or five years, gives it to one of her children, and then buys another one. I'm next in line for the one being paid off this year. But instead of my mom giving me a newish car, I would like to see my mom put away more for retirement. She spends upwards of $40,000 on cars every 5 years.

My mother, like many people, is in a constant state of upgrading, because she feels like it is necessary. She loves her music too, so she loves the satellite radios, the bluetooth, and (now) the car wifi. She also loves her kids and appreciates very much the things she does for us, but she doesn't have to spend so much to appreciate us. Car payments are one of those big saving opportunities that I would like to see her take advantage of. But making that leap is just so hard for some people to do.

I drive a 1992 Chevy C1500 that I got for $2000. Since then, I've put about $4000 into it when it comes to tune-ups, maintenance, a bluetooth radio, and another set of tires for the winter. Certainly, $2000 is a lot of money to put down at one time, and $1500 is a lot of money to put down on a single repair for an old vehicle. But I have had this thing for almost five years. I have saved $34,000 not having bought a $40,000 car like most people do, even when you don't consider the interest.

When this truck goes out on me, I'll end up buying another two- or three-thousand dollar truck off the side of the road and throwing a few grand at it to get it going for the next 5-10 years. I'll have the money to do so because of the ways to save money that I take advantage of.

How Much Money Could You Save This Year?

Bill
Average Monthly Cost
Total Yearly Cost
Cable
$107 in 2018
$1284
Cell Phone
$80+ in 2019
$960
Car Payment
$530 New & $381 Used in 2018
$6360 New & $4572 Used
The cable and cell phone averages are definitely on the low end. And don't forget the cost of having full-coverage insurance for a car that you owe money on.

Thanks for Reading!

There are so many other ways to save money that I haven't touched on yet, so perhaps I'll do a series of these articles. However, it's getting quite extensive for this piece, so I'll have to do more later. If you have any other ways to save money, please put them in the comment. Thanks for reading!

Statistics Sources

Average Cable Bill - https://fortune.com/2018/11/15/average-cable-tv-bill-cord-cutting/

Average Cell Bill - https://www.moneysavingpro.com/cell-phone-plans/comparing-us-and-uk-bills/

Average Car Note - https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/loans/auto-loans/average-monthly-car-payment/

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

    © 2020 Saryn Blackwood

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      • DominiqueCM profile image

        Dominique Cantin-Meaney 

        2 months ago from Montreal, Canada

        Definitely some good ways to save this year. Or anytime really.

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