Save on Monthly Bills
By Shannon M. Medisky
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, especially if it helps save you cash: If you don’t ask, you won’t get. So start asking to start reaping the savings. Begin by calling up your utility company. Utility companies may or may not advertise it, but many offer off-peak discounted rates. If you’re willing to wait and run the dishwasher overnight while sleeping or switch the dryer on right before going to bed, chances are you can cash in on a bit of savings. A quick call to your local utility company will confirm whether or not such discounted rates are available in your area.
If you’ve already got a cell phone, you might consider canceling your landline entirely and pocketing the savings. After all, why pay for two phones when you could pay for one and have the added convenience of never missing a call again?
Another great option is signing up for VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol). If you already pay for high-speed Internet access, then signing up for VoIP – and reaping the significant savings – couldn’t be easier. With the exception of a lower bill, the differences to you are minimal. So minimal, in fact, that you use the same phone and can often keep the same phone number. Oh, and did I mention that standard VoIP packages often include a wide variety of additional services free of charge? Services that traditional landline packages charge for such as caller ID, call waiting, call blocking and even voicemail. And, wait, it gets even better if you happen to make long distance calls to friends and family because, yep, that’s often included as well. The vast majority of VoIP providers not only provide unlimited calling across the US, but many also include free international calls as well. We recently dropped our Verizon landline service and switched to Ooma in the summer. With a one-time fee to purchase the equipment, we are now only paying $3.95 a month for taxes, rather than more than $20 for services from Verizon. If you are interested, you can use this and this link to set up the service and save money on your monthly phone bills.
If you watch TV, you’ve likely seen the informercial touting the MagicJack. Simply plug it in to any USB port on a computer with Internet service, allow it to install the necessary software using the plug-and-play feature, plug it into your normal phone and—Voila!—You have unlimited phone service, both local and long distance included for only $19.99 per year. If you’re open to making the switch to VoIP service, then MagicJack may be a good choice for you and your bottom line.
Whether you’re scrimping and saving and still seeing a shortcoming of monthly cash or you’re simply looking for a way to help avoid the shock of an extraordinarily high utility bill, don’t worry, there’s still much you can do. Help comes to those who help themselves, so get proactive about asking for and putting into practice budget billing when it comes to paying your power bill.
The benefits of budget (or levelized) payments are obvious and compelling. Set budget payments bring no surprises in the monthly bill, allow for easier overall budget planning and spread out the higher costs of utility bills in the winter through the cheaper months of summer. After the set period is over, it’s “settle up” time and the utility company compares actual usage and associated cost to the budget payments that have been made and either offer a credit to your next bill or adjust your next budget payments accordingly. The great thing about budget billing is the fact that there are no income requirements. Anyone who wishes to sign up can often simply call and request it. While some utility companies charge a small service fee for this convenience, the small cost is often offset by the priceless emotional and financial breathing room it can provide. The concept is a simple one: the cost of ongoing service is averaged out over a long period of time (usually a three-month, six-month or year-long period) and then divided into equal payments.
If your utility company doesn’t offer this service, then consider trying a bit of DIY budget billing to help make those more expensive winter months easier to bear financially. During the warmer spring and summer months, when utility bills can be significantly lower, tuck away the extra money in savings so that it’s there to draw on later when you need it. Not only does this create financial breathing room later on, but it enables you to earn a little interest in the meantime.
Photo credit: alykat
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