Killing Vampires and Unused Services: 4 Ways to Clean Up Your Budget

By Nick Gertsema

Saving money is never a bad thing. It’s never a bad time to take a look at your spending and see if there’s anywhere you could save a few bucks. We all know the common budget drains: eating out too much, luxury coffee, clothes, and so on.

There are also subtle, counter-intuitive little money pits that we all slip into every day. Today, let’s look at a few often undiscovered ways to save money.

Cancel Unused Subscriptions

Getting memberships to multiple streaming services seemed like a good idea when you wanted to watch a certain program, but are you still paying for the service months after you’ve forgotten your password? One undiscovered way to save money is to review what you’re paying for and leaving unwatched.

The average American has more than three subscriptions to streaming services. That could be Hulu, Netflix, Spotify, Amazon Prime, Pandora, and several others. If you haven’t used a particular service for a few months, then it could be time to cancel. Canceling now doesn’t mean that you can’t re-subscribe when the time is right. Plus, when you re-subscribe, most of the movies and tv shows will be new and fresh.

Remove All Credit/Debit Cards from Online Services

The hardest part of online shopping is having to get up to get your credit card. If you don’t want something enough to get up and go find your card, it probably isn’t something that you wanted that badly. How many times do you get a box from Amazon Prime and you’re not even sure what you ordered?

Go online and remove all cards. Not only is this a safer option, it forces you to think about whether you truly want to make a purchase. Plan for every opportunity to talk yourself out of an impulse purchase.

Review your Phone/Internet/TV

Are you paying for services that you don’t need? If you are a married couple that uses the internet primarily for email and social media, you probably don’t need the highest speed available. Another undiscovered way to save cash is to check and see what you actually utilize.

You can also check your data usage. Some providers now cap the amount of internet data that you can use before being charged an overage. If you check your data usage, you may be surprised to find out how little you’re using. You may be able to reduce your plan and save money, even with the threat of an additional charge for an overage.

The same can be said for television. When my family moved last June, moving our cable subscription was not an option. My wife and I planned on looking into different satellite options, but never got around to it. Fast forward almost a year and we’ve realized how little we were actually using our expensive cable service.

We primarily watch baseball games, which we found that we could stream online in HD for $25 month. Needless to say, we didn’t feel the need to try and add an additional expense for something that we really didn’t miss.

Unplug Unused Electronic Devices

This one may seem small, but as we buy more and more gadgets, this is becoming quite the silent budget killer. Even though your electronics are turned off, some are still consuming power in standby mode. This is called vampire power, and the NRDC estimates that it cost Americans more than $19 billion in 2015. Some of the biggest culprits are TVs and cable boxes in standby mode. So, that unused TV in your guest room could be costing you every day, even though it isn’t on.

An easy way to combat this is to unplug electronics that aren’t being used. Another way is to plug common electronics into a power strip that can be turned off when they will not be in use for a while. An electronic device that is not plugged in can’t suck power. It may seem like a small step, but the undiscovered savings may turn out to be significant.

Nothing Beats the Real Thing

Even with these tips, there is still no replacement for a budget. When setting a budget, always be honest with yourself. Set realistic goals that are compatible with your lifestyle. If you are not honest with yourself when setting the budget, it will be extremely difficult to stick to it.

Track your progress and analyze how you did at the end of each period. One bad period isn’t a reason to give up, but it may help you find an area that you need to improve on. Most importantly, be accountable. Tell friends that you are cutting costs and ask for support. Making changes is never easy and it’s always nice to have support.

At Gertsema Wealth Advisors, we believe you should live life by design, not default. Making a strong budget and raising your awareness of spending is one way to do this. Talk with one of our financial advisors today who can help you put together a long-term, comprehensive plan that will help you live life by design.

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