Avoid Robbing Peter to Pay Paul
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The Best Ways to Reduce These 13 Monthly Bills and Expenses

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The Move Runs Way Over Budget
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Exercises In Frugality

Making ends meet each month can be challenging for many households in the best of times, and crisis-induced layoffs, business shutdowns and a looming recession make it more challenging to pay the recurring monthly expenses that are part of life. With that in mind, Cheapism gathered tips from personal finance experts to help you save on everything from power bills to groceries.

Paying Too Much for Entertainment
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Cable Bill

With the proliferation in internet streaming television providers, it may be time to cut the cord with big cable companies and shave a few dollars off of your expenses, says Arizona-based personal finance coach Kalen Omo. "Just have an internet connection with a good download speed that supports streaming TV, and get rid of cable," Omo said. "Services such as Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime are great affordable replacements for cable TV." Netflix, for instance, ranges from $9 to $16 a month, while Hulu plans start at $6 a month.

Switch Your Phone Service
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Phone Bill

When it comes to phone expenses, it's a good idea to keep tabs on plans being offered by the competition, Omo says. Use that information to negotiate with your current provider. "See if they can give you a loyalty discount," Omo says. Yet another option is to join a family plan, says Jamie Young, personal finance expert at Student Loan Hero. Such plans typically allow for adding a second or third phone line at a substantial discount. What's more, family plans are not limited to blood relatives. Even friends and roommates can set up a multiple line phone plan. Verizon, for instance, offers unlimited plans that start at $35 per line for four lines. T Mobile offers a similarly priced plan. Whatever you choose, be sure to avoid these phone ripoffs, too.

Mortgage Bill
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Mortgage Bill

If mortgage payments are eating up a significant chunk of your monthly budget, try refinancing, suggests Darla DeMorrow, an author focused on organizing lives, including ways that can save money in the process. "You'll want to check with a mortgage broker or bank to see if [current] rates might save you money on monthly payments," she suggests. In addition, if you've paid off more than 20% of your mortgage principal, you can cancel your mortgage insurance (otherwise known as PMI), further reducing recurring mortgage-related expenses.

Pay Rent Early Each Month
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Rent

If you don't own a home, this is probably your biggest expense. Especially if you've been a good tenant, try negotiating a lower rent with the landlord — it's easier for you to stay than for the landlord to show the unit and assess new tenants, any of whom might be less responsible than you. Go in with some lease negotiation tactics up your sleeve.

Health Insurance Premiums
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Insurance

Meet with your insurance agent, DeMorrow advises — though these days, that meeting might be held by video chat. "It's easy to apply for insurance online, but by meeting in person with an insurance agent, they're likely to find out things about you that can help with your monthly bill." For instance, the agent may have a plan that offers a discount for graduating from certain schools or being associated with a particular type of profession or employer. Combining policies such as home and auto insurance, also known as "bundling," can yield savings, too. At the very least, you should be comparison shopping every year to find out how much the competition charges.

Power Bills
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Power Bills

To help cut down on power bills, make sure the majority of your usage happens late at night, suggests Sarah Hollenbeck, a savings expert with Offers.com. "Many power companies offer non-peak hour discounts, saving you money just by waiting a few more hours to throw your laundry in or take a shower," Hollenbeck says. "Call your company to see if this is an opportunity you can take advantage of and what they consider non-peak hours, as it can vary by location." To save even more money, switch to using cold water for your laundry. Not only does this cut down on the expense, it's better for the environment, preventing carbon pollution. The process of heating water accounts for about 90% of the energy a machine uses to wash clothes, while only 10% is related to the electricity used by the washer motor.

Delegate Household Tasks
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House Cleaning and Lawn Care

You might love the convenience of having someone clean your house or mow your lawn, but try calculating how much that's costing you each year, says personal finance expert Trae Bodge. "If you have able-bodied children, consider asking them to do the work," Bodge said. "The allowance will be minuscule compared to what you're paying now. Then, take that money that you've saved and drop it in a college fund." When your kids realize that they have money for college, they'll be happy they pitched in all those years.

Xeriscapes
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Water

Water is precious and using less of it can help protect the environment, while also reducing water bills, says Elizabeth Dodson, co-founder of HomeZada.com, a personal finance platform for homeowners. There are several ways to manage water use and cut back on monthly bills, including installing low-flow fixtures on shower heads and toilets. Also consider watering the lawn later in the evening and early in the morning when the most water will be absorbed into the lawn, rather than evaporating in the bright sunshine. Another option is to change your landscaping entirely, replacing grass with low-irrigation plants.

Smart Thermostats
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Air Conditioning and Heating

Air conditioning and heating costs warrant discussion on their own, considering how much each can raise an electric bill, Dodson says. There are several ways to tackle this problem. For instance, replacing a thermostat with a programmable model that cools your home only when you're in it. In addition, have your air conditioning units checked — if they're overworked, generally a simple repair can reduce usage. To save on air conditioning and heating costs, check your home for any leaks near windows and doors, where air may be getting out or in. Simply caulking these areas can make a difference, Dodson says.

Walking or Biking to Work
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Transportation

Give up private car use, and its gas and maintenance expenses, and use bicycling, public transit or carpooling, with the occasional use of a service such as Lyft or Uber or short-term rental services such as Zipcar or Turo. At least consider trading in your vehicle for a more efficient one with lower payments, and consider a pay-per-mile auto insurance company such as MetroMile that encourages you to drive less.

Gym Membership
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Gym Membership

If you've been isolating and stress eating, you might be racing to get back into a gym as soon as possible. These businesses might be motivated to cut deals and sign up customers, and you should try to negotiate a good deal with the gym manager or sales representative, perhaps requesting a month free or a waived initiation fee. There may be a discount for paying annual dues up front, rather than on a monthly basis, and some gyms offer discounts when you join as part of group, such as through an employer or an educational institution. Many gyms offer family or household discounts when you sign up two or more people, and you can always search online for deals. Sites such as Living Social, Groupon, and even fitness websites have been known to offer discounts. If you do sign up for a gym membership, make the most of it.

Buy Groceries At The Dollar Store
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Groceries

For many households, groceries are one of the most significant recurring monthly expenses, often costing hundreds of dollars each week. There are numerous ways to cut down on this expenditure for those willing to put in a little extra effort. Coupons are one of the most straightforward ways to reduce food spending. Sites such as Coupons.com, which offer printable coupons, are a great place to start. Skipping the brand names is another simple way to lower grocery bills. It's also a good idea to take the time to create a grocery list before heading to the store and stick to it, ignoring the impulse buys. Yet another option for saving a few pennies is the app Ibotta, which will pay you cash via Venmo or PayPal for taking pictures of your grocery receipts.

Internet Tax, WI
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Internet

Like many other monthly expenses, one of the best ways to lower your internet bill is to be armed with information about competitors' prices. You can use a price comparison tool such as In My Area to compare potential providers. Yet another approach is lowering your internet speed. Sometimes premium, high-speed internet can be a waste of money. Streaming television shows for instance, requires only about 5 megabits per second, per stream. If two people stream programs on separate devices at the same time, about 10 mbps would be required. Many providers also offer discounts for bundling services such as phone, internet and television. And while this isn't always the best deal, sometimes it can pay off. Finally, tell a provider you're going to cancel, which often prompts the company to offer a lower price.

Tip: Take Action
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Use a Bill Negotiation Service

For many of the monthly bills mentioned here, negotiation skills can go a long way. But if calling and asking for a discount is not your cup of tea, there are services that will do it for you, says Alexander Lowry, a professor of finance at Gordon College. BillFixers.com will act as your agent, calling phone, cable and many other providers to negotiate better deals on your behalf, Lowry said. "BillFixers claims a 94.9% success rate," Lowry says. "In exchange for this service, customers hand over half of the next year's savings. A $20-a-month reduction yields $120 for BillFixers." If BillFixers can't save you anything, it won't charge anything.