Saturday, July 27, 2013

Ways to Save Money on Monthlies (Bills)

This may seem like an odd post for a blog dealing with chronic health, but the fact is many people with such issues, have money problems. This is a great topic for support groups to consider. Definitely bring in people who have a lot of experience with a particular approach to help address individual issues.  

STEP ONE: Determine how you spend your money each month. Keep an accurate accounting including: monthly bills (housing, utilities, car etc.); gasoline; food; snacks; entertainment; food, clothing; donations, medicine, medical care, vet bills etc.

STEP TWO: Eliminate unnecessary items, such as sodas, snack foods, lottery tickets etc. Find alternatives to things like magazine and newspaper subscriptions (these are often available on-line and at the public library), buying books (use the library instead), renting movies (many libraries now offer DVDs), gym membership (walk, ride a bike, engage in sports).

STEP THREE Check out ways to reduce specific bills:

• Cable: Using internet streaming can save a bundle on monthly cable TV bills and at home movie rentals. This is an excellent article that goes step by step in “Howto Cancel Cable and Save with Free Internet TV.  Chances are good you probably know people that have already done this, so ask them for help. Pulling the plug on cable could easily save $1,200 per year. Remember that your local library carries DVDs of popular movies and TV shows. One thing to be aware of. Many cable and phone companies offer “bundles.” Make sure that if you disconnect from your cable TV programming, it’s not going to raise your internet or other services through the roof.

• Phone: Many people are switching to cell service only, ditching their land lines.  In fact, eventually they will go the way of black and white TV. Before you make the switch, make sure you have good access with your cell phone. Talk to other people in your area who have tried this. For further information, read How to Ditch Your Landline .

Use free services like Skype, Face Time (it’s the Apple version of Skype), which allows you to talk face to face using your computer, tablet etc. You may be able to get away with a lower price cell service by taking advantage of some of the free services.

• Housing: Rent and mortgages can be the single biggest “monthly.” Consider the following options:
  1. -    Downsizing to a smaller home. Don’t dismiss this out of hand as sometimes a move allows you not only to save money in terms of rent/mortgage, but it can put you in walking distance of shopping, job etc. thereby saving money on gas. A smaller more energy efficient home can help to reduce fuel costs.
  2. -       A roommate.
  3. -     A reverse mortgage. If you're of the right age, short on cash, and sitting on hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more) in home equity, reverse mortgages can be a sweet deal. The government-sponsored products allow seniors — those over the age of 62 — to tap the equity in their homes while still living in them. Essentially, your mortgage pays you, rather than the other way around, and you don't repay the loan until the sale of your house — either when you move or after your death. How toKnow If a Reverse Mortgage is Right For You. 
  4. -       Don’t buy more home that you need or can afford.
  5. -       Refinance your mortgage
  6. -       Make biweekly payments
  7. -       Use the Making Home Affordable program, which is a federal government to help home owners. 

• Food This can be a major bill, depending on the size of your household and food requirements. Many people with chronic conditions have specific food needs, which can be very expensive. Being a savvy shopper, joining a Coop or Buyers Club are essential for many that want to eat well but affordably. These are some tips to consider
  1. - Use Coupons (only clip/download the ones for products you normally use)
  2. -       Purchase store brand items
  3. -       Vintage Food Stores/Bins-This is friend of mine’s name for the “dented can” store or the section of the store where items are significantly reduced.
  4. -       Loyalty cards-Some stores offer significant savings if you use their cards. All that is required is filling out an application.
  5. -       Know prices for items you most frequently buy. Shop in stores where they are cheapest and buy in bulk when they are truly on sale-such as two for the price of one. Only purchase items you use and avoid impulse buying because of a sale.
  6. -       Join a food coop and work a shift to help reduce your bill
  7. -       The most expensive brands are at eye level on super market shelves, so look up and down for cheaper options.
  8. -       Grow your own veggies and herbs, even if it’s in pots or window sill containers.
  9. -       Avoid convenience food when possible. Not only are they more expensive, they are generally higher in calories, fats and other stuff that you don’t need anyway.
  10. -       Pack a lunch and healthy snacks for work. Avoid using vending machines or going out for lunch.
  11. -       Invest in a water bottle and don’t purchase bottled water. Not only are the plastic bottles bad for the environment and expensive, in general, the water coming out of your tap is of the same quality. If you do live in a place with poor water quality invest in a water filtration system. In some cases, a Britta type filter is sufficient.
  12. -       Freeze left overs and use at a later date.
  13. -       Shop after you’ve eaten, as it will reduce the risk of impulse buying
  14. -       Don’t purchase items like air fresheners and cleaning products, as they generally are pretty toxic. Instead, open a window, cut up a lemon. Most things can be cleaned with baking soda, vinegar, salt and even sugar. Learn more at Are YourGreen Cleaning Products and Skin lotions making you sicker? 

• Utilities: There are lots of ways to reduce your fuel, water and electric bill. The simplest way to reduce costs is by using less. Every state has some type of energy efficiency program that helps to reduce energy, thereby reducing costs. This can include: home weatherization (can be free depending on income), rebates on energy efficient products, loan programs for developing renewal energy options and much more. Check out what’s available in your state. 

• Car: Is that trip necessary? Ask yourself that every time you think about driving somewhere. Another question to ask is whether you can walk or bike (ass not gas). The more car trips you eliminate, the more money you save. At $4 a gallon, you can save a lot of money.

• Medications: Before the prescription is written, discuss your financial situation with your medical provider. Is it essential that you take this medication? Are their generic or over the counter options? Can they provide samples? Do they know if there is a patient assistance program? Many pharmaceutical companies have programs that provide deep discounts or even free for people in need. If the provider doesn’t know, check the company’s website or Check out the following resources;
-       Prescription Assistance Program
-       Free Medicine Program
-       Needy Meds
-       Together Rx Access
-       Rx Assist
-       Tricare Senior Pharmacy For uniformed services beneficiaries 65 years of age or older.

Other things to consider:
  • - o Look into higher dose pills: Since a 40 mg dose sells for almost the same as an 80 mg pill, ask your pharmacist and medical provider if it’s possible to pill split, so that you get the correct lower dose, but at a deep saving. While your medical provider has to write the prescription, the pharmacist may have a better handle on whether the pill is good for splitting. Be sure to ask the pharmacist for tips on how to correctly pill split. Consumer Reports PillSplitting 
  • -       Shop around. Many states, as well as condition specific organizations (e.g. American Cancer Society) have set up websites that provide cost comparisons for specific drugs.

-       More Tips

Please post any tips you have on saving money on monthly bills.

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