Being American means being free, bold and friendly…unless you’ve ever dropped a bunch of coins on the ground and dared not to pick up the pennies. People will give you dirty looks! And you know what they are thinking: Oh, we have a big shot over here not picking up her pennies.
It is in our nature to work hard and value every penny we have earned. We love deals and do amazing calculations in our brains when we’re shopping. But what about saving money in the ordinary, mundane services that you already pay for?
Cell phone carriers
Like the cable companies, customer service representatives at wireless carriers hawk a long list of add-ons designed to balloon your bill to epic proportions. And the number one offenders are unnecessary data subscriptions.
The last time I had the pleasure of spending hours in a wireless store, I was shocked to see how much data my salesperson had signed me up for, without even asking. Unless I got into the habit of watching YouTube videos all day at a location with no WiFi, it is very difficult to imagine the scenario where I could possibly burn through 10 gigs of data in a month. Make sure to read your cell phone bill each time you receive it to monitor how much data you actually use – or get an app from the App Store or Google Play.
Unlike cell phone carriers, cable providers are not generally inclined to negotiate prices. However, that does not mean you can’t save some money. With the rise of “cord cutters,” or people who rely solely on streaming services like Netflix, cable companies have become quite aggressive in pushing their bundle packages that include voice, data and television plans. In fact, it is probably a good idea to review your bill to make sure they didn’t add any of those services “mistakenly.”
It’s an important point because packaged deals from the cable company do not always save you money. I know of one situation in which the “triple play” from a cable company cost more than paying for a separate phone line.
In the 1990s, states began to “unbundle” electric service bills so that now there were two separate charges:
The energy supplier produces the energy. This is where you have a choice between a big utility company (like ConEd) or a smaller producer.
The utility company (like ConEd) owns the power lines that delivers the energy.
Unfortunately, many people who chose to go with a smaller supplier are facing a price increase of 30 cents per kilowatt hour – and worse, many do not even know it. If I sound like a broken record, forgive me, but: You should always read your bills in their entirety to see if you still need what you are paying for.
Going to the gym is great for the mind and body, but sitting down with a salesperson when you first join…not so much. First they had me trying to consider the various joiner’s fees against the various monthly charges. Next they started badgering me about personal trainers. The next thing I know they’ve got my belly fat in a caliper and I am signed up for personal training sessions every day at 6 am.
If this happens to you, don’t worry. You can make it all go away as long as you cancel within three days, because there is a federal law that affords you that right.
Banks make mistakes all the time. In my role as a Financial Concierge, I have seen banks make some serious, serious mistakes. The only way to guard against this is to know what you have, and the only way to do that is to balance your checkbook. Soon you will detect a bank error, and you will see how little things add up.
Some other ways to save:
- Auditing your insurance policies to make sure you are not insuring things that do not exist;
- Negotiating the price of heating oil;
- Reviewing your charges;
- Taking advantage of services that offer free shipping, like Amazon Prime; and
- Paying attention to your monthly automatic debits
It’s easy to lose track of money when it’s all a bunch of bleeps and bloops on a hard drive somewhere in California – but electronic money still spends the same, and I hope that one or more of these tips will help you recapture enough for some nice spiced cider.
Are all of your debits correct? When was the last time you made sure?
Judith Heft, Principal, Judith Heft & Associates is a personal financial concierge with offices in Greenwich and Stamford. She can be contacted via email at email@example.com or by phone 203-978-1858