WSJ sought to write a provoking article on how to save an extra $10k per year. Their suggestions, sometimes reasonable, sometimes not, are listed below, along with my commentary (full article here.)
Dump the TV
That is a good idea if you live alone and are paying $600 per year on television. With roommates, if we dumped the TV altogether that might save me $60 per year, and I’d have to convince my roommates to dump the TV.
Use loyalty programs aggressively to get discounts on car rental, air travel and other deals
Not a bad idea, but something that takes time to figure out, and if your time is worth more than this (if you earn $50/hour that’s only 20 hours for the whole year to spent figuring out these deals, signing up for programs, etc.) You’re probably better charging $70/hour and working those extra 20 hours.
Switch Bank Card Companies
Some banks do charge lower fees. The only fees I’ve paid (that I know of) are the few that came when I accidentally bounced a few checks this year, forgetting to transfer money properly into my account. How much do you think you would save if you switched banks?
Reset your weekly expenses to fortnightly.
I already don’t have weekly expenses, except maybe a splurge on eating out every once in a while. My parents, on the other hand, could do with moving their house cleaner to bi-weekly. This is probably the best tip of the bunch, if you have unnecessary weekly expenses.
Dump the car for a bicycle
If you live in a city where this is possible, by all means, dump the car. This does save you money, and it helps get you fit to boot. However, it might be good to have a car in case of emergencies, and that still requires paying insurance and for car upgrades. You can save on gas by biking when possible. I need to do this more.
Axe the landline
If only AT&T cell reception worked as a phone…
Refinance your home
I don’t have a home, but I’m sure this is a good idea for those of you who do who haven’t refinanced yet and are eligible
Team up with trusted friends or neighbors for warehouse deals and even cell phone plans.
Some of these examples (ie share cell phone family plan) seem like they should be against the terms of service, or at the least, a bad idea since one family has to take responsibility for the bills and the other could walk away from the plan scot free. Sharing big Costo-sized portions for a discount of needed items is a great idea, but you need to first find people who want to share the same items as you.
Do things for yourself…
Instead of paying someone else to fix things around the house, learn how to do it yourself. Yes, you can save a lot with this method, but again, it’s a matter of the value of your time, and how fast you can learn these things / how long it takes to get done. It may be a better plan to hire someone to do the fixes, and focus on working more hours, or having more free time.
Use eBay and Craigslist more
As a seller — this is a good idea. There are a lot of people out there, surprisingly, willing to buy your junk. As a buyer, this is not a good idea. There are so many “great deals” to be had that you can easily spend your entire paycheck on junk, just like at the local garage sale. Unless you are looking for a specific item or making a sale, avoiding these sites will save you more money than visiting them.
Cut back on new books
How many books do you buy per year? If you buy books on a regular basis, these are likely one of your main forms of entertainment — I wouldn’t recommend cutting back on reading. Maybe use the library more and read older books instead of the brand new ones that you can only get on Amazon for $15-$25. Or, better yet, start a book-trading club with friends, and buy one book to go around.
Get “creative” on vacations
For young, single types, this is highly recommended, because if something goes wrong for any reason by arranging a frugal trip, you don’t have tots around to deal with the mess. I’ve had plenty of well below cost travel experiences due to using sites like AirBnB and Craigslist and Couchsurfing for cheap or free accommodations. Best yet was an apartment stay in downtown Chicago in an area where one night at a hotel would be $300 — and my entire 8 day stay was around $600. I found this deal on Craigslist, and talked to the owner of the apartment, who was a student and leaving to Europe for two weeks, via email. If I had kids along, I would have been a lot more nervous if we got there and the apartment was full of mold or something else went wrong last minute. Still, sites like AirBnB provide a decent, relatively safe way to save on hotels. WSJ also recommends booking last minute, but who wants to do that when you have to tell your boss about the days you’re taking off well in advance.
Fight the Airline System
Here’s one I didn’t completely understand… flying indirect vs direct can save you $300 for a four-hour detour. Ok, I still don’t understand it. Sometimes the indirect flight is cheaper (when I search on Continental.com, for instance) but this isn’t always the case. It usually provides more frequent flier miles (which is why lately I’ve been flying indirect more) but I haven’t seen examples where the indirect flights are cheaper if you’re flying roundtrip. They also recommend checking for refunds on airline tickets at yapta.com
Stop wasting water.
My landlord pays for water — so I’m sure I could save him money on this, but it won’t effect my personal bills. If you pay your own water bill, there are many ways to save money on this including installing aerators on faucets and showerheads, installing low-flow toilets and a front-loading washing machine.
Volunteer for Events.
Instead of paying for tickets to festivals, conferences, and plays, volunteer. This is a good idea if you’re retired or have the extra time to both volunteer and make use of any benefits (free attendance on other days) that may come with helping out. I’ve ushered for plays before, and it’s a pretty good deal. You have to help hand out programs, show up at the theater early, probably wear a white top and black pants (no dressing chic for the theater), but you can get a random seat for “free” at a show that may cost $90 a seat otherwise.
Get smart about dining out.
Here’s one I could really use some help on. They don’t say to not eat out at all, but either make one meal off limits for eating out (ie lunch) or instead of meeting pals for dinner all the time, just meet for happy hour. (I think drinks end up costing more IMO but if you can avoid the drinks altogether and enjoy the happy hour food specials, you’ve done a good job.) An easier way to do this would be just to not eat out, or only eat out once or twice per month. Uhm, easier written than done.
Return sanity to the holidays.
If you are trading really expensive gifts on the holidays with lots of family members, you can tone that down a bit. Do kids really need the fanciest new gadget? Does your girlfriend really need that diamond bracelet? Come up with creative, personalized gifts that cost less, or donate money to a charity instead. WSJ recommends trading ornaments on Christmas, but personally, I think that’s lame. There is a value in the surprise of what gift someone got you, and getting a gift for someone else that’s meaningful — it’s part of the tradition.
So they say if you do all the things on this list, you can save up to $15,000 per year. Or, if you earn $50/hour, that’s 37.5 working days (8 hour days) worth of work. If you can actually take advantage of all of these saving options, good for you. I’d guess most of us could save $5000 a year reasonably with some of these options, but the more frugal you are already, of course, the less you can save.