How to Slash Your Monthly Expenses by $1,000 (or More) per Year

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Honey Boo Boo may be entertaining, but is she worth the $100 or more you may be shelling out for cable each month?

According to The NPD Group, the average pay-TV subscription service cost $86 a month in 2011, and that number is expected to climb to $123 by the year 2015. If the research company is right, you may be on track to spend more than $200 a month for the privilege of watching television in 2020.

If that sounds outrageous to you, watch the video below. Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson explains how you can cut your cable bill, plus slash other monthly expenses from your budget. Then keep reading for more details on how to save money on monthly service and subscription fees.

Cable or satellite TV

Let’s start with the big one: your television service. Now, I know paying to watch TV seems to be the American way. After all, in 2012, Nielsen reported more than 90 percent of the nation’s households paid for a TV subscription either through a cable, satellite or telephone provider.

So I get it if you think pulling the plug is a bit radical. But it is also smart. If you have an HDTV and a roof antenna, you can get free over-the-air channels with a picture quality that puts standard-definition cable TV to shame.

In addition, if you have a newer TV, Blu-Ray player or gaming system and a high-speed Internet connection, you can use these streaming services for a fraction of the price:

  • Netflix
  • Hulu or Hulu Plus
  • Amazon Prime
  • iTunes

There may be a slight delay in watching new shows but ask yourself if it is really worth $1,200 a year just so you can be in the know for the office water cooler conversation?

One of the most popular articles we’ve ever published is Three Steps to Cut Your Cable Bill by 90 Percent. Check it out.

Internet

Next to television, Internet is the other big monthly expense for many families.

If you are a basic Internet user and simply need service to check your email and Facebook, you may want to check out the ultra-cheap Internet available through Freedom Pop and NetZero.

With Freedom Pop, you can get up to 2 gigabytes of wireless service at 3G and 4G speeds, while NetZero offers a DSL hook-up. NetZero is as cheap as $9.95 a month while Freedom Pop is free to start, and then charges as little as $3.99 a month. However, both services might require you to buy their modem and/or router equipment.

For more, check out another super-popular post: You Can Now Get Free Internet at Home and Away.

If you have a tiered data plan with Verizon Wireless, you can use your phone as a tethered hot spot for free. The company settled a complaint with the FCC in 2012 and agreed not to charge these customers for hot spot access. Depending on your plan, you might need to download a third-party app first.

If you are grandfathered into Verizon’s old unlimited data plan, you’re out of luck with the free hot spot service. However, you can pay $30 a month for 4 gigabytes of hot spot access, and that may be cheaper than what you are currently paying for DSL or cable. Other mobile carriers offer their own hot spot plans as well.

Finally, if your kids qualify for the National School Lunch Program, you can get $9.95 Internet access through programs such as Comcast’s Internet Essentials.

Mobile phone service

Moving right along…let’s talk about your cell phone. Signing a contract can be the best way to snag the latest and greatest phone for little or nothing upfront. But you’ll be paying for that phone in the form of higher monthly plan fees over the next two years.

If you aren’t particular about your phone, try a prepaid plan that will give you access to good service with a decent, although not flashy, phone. All the major carriers offer prepaid plans, but PC Magazine reports some of the smaller providers offer even better deals.

Check out what is available in your area from the following companies:

  • Consumer Cellular
  • Net10
  • Total Call Mobile
  • Page Plus Cellular
  • Ready Mobile

Be sure to compare a couple of different providers before signing up. Most run on AT&T or Sprint’s network but Page Plus Cellular offers access to Verizon’s network. In addition, some providers, such as Total Call Mobile, may be a better choice if you need to call internationally.

Credit monitoring

We’ve covered the big three, but there are still plenty more ways to save. Sometimes, we get so hung up on our major expenses that we ignore the little fees that nickel and dime our bank accounts down to nothing.

Take credit monitoring, for example. You could pay a company $15 a month or more to watch your credit report or you could do it yourself. By law, you are entitled to a free copy of your credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus each year. Request yours at annualcreditreport.com (the only government-authorized site) and review them for errors.

For additional peace of mind, you can add a fraud alert to your file, which requires lenders to take additional steps to verify your request before extending any credit in your name.

In short, there’s no reason to pay for credit monitoring. For more, read Ask Stacy: Should I Pay for Credit Monitoring?

Computer services

Along the same lines, why are you paying for virus protection and cloud storage when free options are available?

I am an AVG fan myself, but there are plenty of other good free anti-virus programs available. Again, we’ll defer to our friends at PC Magazine to help identify the best free programs on the Web. The following are among their recommendations:

  • Ad-Aware Free Anti-Virus
  • AVG Anti-Virus FREE
  • Comodo Internet Security Premium
  • Malwarebytes Anti-Malware

For more, read 8 Tips to Protect Your Computer From Viruses and Malware

Cloud storage is also easily found online. If you have an MSN account, you have access to their SkyDrive. Google users can back up documents to their Google Drive. Then, you also have Dropbox, iCloud, MediaFire and the list goes on and on.

Magazine Subscriptions

Confession time: I love magazines. My perfect morning involves sleeping children, a cup of coffee and a home and garden magazine.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to get cheap magazines without paying newsstand prices. For example, there are a number of websites offering free magazine subscriptions. I’ve personally used the free magazine section of ValueMags for consumer publications and Mercury Magazines for business titles.

While many free magazine offers are for digital editions, you can also find print subscriptions for free.

Speaking of digital editions, you can typically find much of a magazine’s content on its website for free. I know, it’s not quite the same as flipping through the pages, but you can’t beat the price.

If you must have the magazine in your hand but can’t find a free subscription, a trip to your local library is probably in order. In addition to checking magazines out, some branches have racks of old issues free for the taking.

Gym memberships

Last but not least, that gym membership you’ve been clinging to in the hopes you really will begin working out any day now.

If you really want to belong to a gym, look for free or low-cost options. Students may have free access to their school’s facilities. Your health insurance plan may get you a discount. Or if you belong to Costco, you could take advantage of their arrangement with 24 Hour Fitness. Other chains such as Planet Fitness and Anytime Fitness specialize in no-frills, low-cost gyms.

Finally, it probably doesn’t need to be said, but you do know it’s free to walk on the sidewalk, right?

How have you cut back on your monthly subscription expenses? Is there something you’ll never give up? Tell us more about it in the comments or on our Facebook page.

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Comments & discussion

We welcome your opinions, but let’s keep it civil. Like many businesses, we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone. In our case, that means those who communicate by name-calling, racism, using words designed to hurt others or generally acting like an uninformed bully. Also, comments that include links to email addresses or commercial websites typically aren't posted. This isn't a place to advertise your business.

  • Lisa Rice

    The only thing that I choose to differ about is the fact that in some areas of the country, you NEED cable in order to get local TV channels. I got around that by ONLY subscribing to getting Internet service. $100 versus $23 – I am on an extremely limited income.

  • Bob Lee

    I pay $69/month for internet only, I watch local TV using an antenna, internet phone, and Netflix etc… If I want to go with NetZero or Clear, then I will pay $49.99 plus a landline phone to connect to the internet which cost is $25(tax included)minimum, so my total will be $74.99. To stream you need a constant fast enough speed and with 6mbps it’s not enough.

  • Dena Kelley

    We cut the cord on our cable and now view TV show only via internet- Hulu, Netflix, CBS.com, etc. I pay $14.98 a month now for TV (the Hulu and Netflix subscriptions). However, because of that we did have to bump up our internet to avoid overages. It’s still a savings, though.

  • Nan Bostick

    What about having net zero? Is it a good deal. Are there any other company better?

  • Setsunafse

    There are reports that sites such as Hulu will soon be tied to cable subscriptions, allowing only individuals who have cable subscriptions to use Hulu: http://techcrunch.com/2012/04/30/rumor-hulu-will-soon-require-viewers-to-have-a-cable-subscription/

    I live near the mountains, making over-the-air antenna difficult to use. The USA should catch up to the rest of the world and adopt GSM as the international convention for cellular communications to increase competition among the carriers. It’s inconceivable that I can’t take my perfectly functional cell phone away from Verizon to another carrier because it uses a different signal type, forcing me to buy a new phone with a new carrier.

  • Emily

    I appreciate your mentioning going to the library as an option for reading magazines. But you should also mention that many libraries now offer free access to Zinio, a digital magazine service. The selection of magazines isn’t always great, but there are some gems there and the major bonus is being able to access the magazines from home (sans car drive to and from library facility).

  • Nora Reeves

    Don’t get freedom pop, I had it and after I canceled they kept taking money out of my bank account. I had to change my bank account info. to stop them from taking my money. I had called and sent about 20 emails.