Reducing Monthly Bills
The moment we've all been waiting for (maybe I'm getting a little ahead of myself here, but I'm excited!), a post on how I reduced my monthly bills in order to increase my travel budget. This is the one area I feel that I've mastered which not only helps me travel but live a better life in general. I realized that I can live a simpler life at home so that I can splurge when I'm on the road. Let me show you what I've done over the last few years which has made me tens of thousands of dollars richer while enabling me to see many more destinations.
Electric & Gas: For the most part these bills are unavoidable unless you have renewable energy, but I won't be diving into that much detail so I'll keep this broad for the majority of us. For us renters there's not much we can do as far as home improvements to become more efficient. What we can do is ensure we are efficient ourselves in turning off the lights and keeping the heat / AC at mild temperatures. One thing that I now do is utilize the outside temperature, i.e. I open the windows when it's in the 60s instead of using the utilities which does save me some money during the spring and summer. For those homeowners, the first place I would start is with a smart thermostat. Set your temperature when you're not in the house to save money, it will absolutely save you money in the long run. Also be sure to change your light bulbs or use energy efficient equipment if possible. It may cost more upfront, but do some calculations and see if you can save in the long run. Need to start somewhere!
Movie Rentals: Netflix, HBO, Starz, all gone. I save about $30 a month by ridding myself of these rentals and it has absolutely helped. Instead of watching a movie I pick up a book, if I have company then I throw on Amazon. Only reason I keep Amazon is because of the two-day shipping, considering I buy everything off their site it's a slam dunk at the end of the day. If you're traveling for long periods of time you want to lose these payments, in the two years I was on the road I've seen someone throw on HBO once to watch Game Of Thrones in Croatia. Not worth the expense.
Car Payments: Here's the biggest one of all, your car payments. For those of you in rural area this may be unavoidable, but you can save a ton of money by switching to a cheaper vehicle or a more fuel efficient one. I live in a city and decided to sell my car. It was very hard at first, couldn't go see my family as often and had to figure out ways to get up to the mountains during he winter. It's a sacrifice, but it's worth it. My car payment was $250 a month, plus parking another $125. Take that out and I save $375 a month plus gas and tolls. Uber and renting a car is way too affordable now to not go this route, I highly recommend it if you have the ability to do so.
Rent: I'm in the process of writing a whole post on moving home so stay tuned. What I do now is find places that I can sublease so that I can book my travels around them. If I'm not locked into a 12 month lease, I don't have to pay rent while I'm abroad. Saves me $1,200 a month, that makes me a happy and richer man. More to come though on this.
Gym Memberships: I was previous at CKO paying $120 a month. That is a steep price to pay for a gym membership, plus they'll charge you a signup fee and possibly yearly renewal fee's. I decided to trash this and go with a Planet Fitness membership. I know it's a terrible gym, but it gets the job done. I considered just working out at home but gym equipment is very expensive, for the amount I spend at Planet Fitness (just $10 a month) it's not worth it for me to invest on my own equipment. See what you can do, but I save $1,320 a year now by making this move.
Banking Fee's: Here's a tricky one, but if you spend the time you can save a few bucks here and there. Many banks offer rewards for customers if you hit a specific threshold in your account which could save you a pretty penny. For instance, I don't pay ATM fee's if using banks affiliated with mine abroad. I also don't pay monthly fee's because of the direct deposit, so my banking is free. All in all, this may save me a few hundred dollars a year. Every penny adds up, start shopping around many banks will even give you a bonus for signing up!
Student Loans: In the US student loans have gotten out of control, with graduates (or so I hope!) paying anywhere from $150/mo to $1,000/mo. These can cripple you for years to come. There's only two suggestions I can make in regards to these loans, pay them off as quickly as possible or try and defer them if you're not working. Unfortunately with loans there's little direction I can provide without knowing the individuals situation.
Car Insurance: Another savings when I sold my car, no need to purchase car insurance! If you do own a vehicle, you can call the insurance company and notify them that you'll be out of the country and see how much you can save by removing most of your coverage. I had my insurance adjusted when I first started traveling and saved $300 for the year by removing collision, no need for it since it won't move from the garage.
Credit Card Fee's: Many people have multiple credit cards, some of which charge yearly fee's. I'll dive into this more in my upcoming credit card post, but in a nutshell you want to minimize the amount of cards that you have to pay a yearly subscription fee. Of my five credit cards only two have fee's, but again more on this later.
Cell Phone: Many cellular plans offer discounts by jumping into a family plan. If possible, try jumping on one with the family to save a few bucks. I have my own plan costing me $115 a month on Verizon, switched to a family plan for 4 people totaling $260. Saved myself $600 a year by making the move while also increasing our data plan. When I go abroad for a few months, I'm usually able to put my own plan on hold so that I don't have to make payments. The two year contract will not continue to expire, but then again I've been on Verizon for years and have no intentions of changing.
Transportation: For those of us who take public transportation, there could be an opportunity to save. Traveling from New Jersey cost me a couple hundred each month because I had to take the subway and the PATH train. After the first few years I decided to cancel my monthly subway card and begin walking the twenty-five blocks. Though I'm sure many of you have a longer commute, take a look and see if there's a way to save on this expense. If you're not going into the office five days a week, maybe it's cheaper to buy single tickets instead of the monthly pass.
Renters Insurance: I chose to no longer purchase renters insurance when I moved into the subleased apartment since I was not on the lease and the apartments come furnished, but this is one of those bills I recommend keeping if renting. Renters insurance was dirt cheap when going with my car insurance provider, costing a measly $150 per year. That's something I'd rather not skimp on then risk losing everything in my apartment.
Cable: One of the most common recurring bills may be one of the easiest to reduce. I was able to drop most of my extras to greatly reduce the monthly price, though my nights did become a little less exciting. Not having HBO sucked since I had to find ways to stream Game Of Thrones, but other than that I got over it fairly quickly.
Internet: Not suggesting you get rid of your internet, but many of us pay for these upload and download speeds that an amazon data center wouldn't use. Take a look at what you need and see if you can reduce your plan. Try and leverage your WiFi so that you can reduce your data plan on your cell phone as well.
That about does it for me, let me know if you have any recurring costs to add to the list!