Mellody's Math: Everyday Money-Saving Secrets

There are many services you can simply live without. Take a look at what you are spending on phone service, for instance. On your next monthly phone bill, examine the itemized breakdown of all of the services. Additional features such as call waiting, call forwarding, caller ID and voice mail can quickly add up to more than $30 a month.

Give your monthly cable bill the same scrutiny. Cutting back on the multiple premium channels, and even the cable itself, can save you hundreds of dollars a year. Digital cable service can cost you upwards of $75 a month if you subscribe to the plans offering all of the premium channels. Ask yourself, how much of a premium are you really willing to pay?

In addition to your local phone and cable services, consider disconnecting your cellular phone. While it is possible to actually save money with a cellular phone plan, especially for long distance calls, there are also pitfalls. Exceeding your minute package or incurring roaming charges can dramatically add to the cost of cellular convenience.

After cutting back on the phone and cable services, take a look at your energy costs, another aspect of your home life that might cost more than it should. Besides purchasing appliances that are certified as energy efficient, you should contact your electric utility company to find out about their home energy audit options. Commonwealth Edison, in Chicago, for example, offers a free online audit service which enables you to enter information about your home to determine what your energy cost should be. A home energy audit can save you hundreds of dollars a year on heating and air conditioning costs.

Free Press

Many printed materials, including major newspapers, and national news magazines, are available on the Internet for little or no cost at all. Some send news updates through email for free. For those who refuse to give up the feel of the ink and paper, remember your local library and card provide a free way to access the Internet as well as a free read of your favorite magazines.

If you must have your news in print, look at getting a subscription. The daily stop to the newsstand can add up quickly. If you live in Chicago and buy the New York Times at the newsstand, it will cost you $10.75 per week versus a weekly subscription of $5.75 per week. The $5.00 difference adds up to a savings of $260 a year. Time costs $3.75 at the newsstand whereas a year's subscription costs $24.95 — a 77 percent discount off the newsstand price.

Bigger Not Always Better

Most consumers immediately believe buying in bulk and buying the bigger item saves money, but this is not necessarily the case. Buying bigger can actually mean a bigger price tag. With items such as peanut butter, toothpaste and ketchup, the family sizes often cost more per ounce than the smaller item.

You need to do the math before you buy bigger. For example, the Wall Street Journal recently reported a 64-ounce of Heinz Tomato Ketchup costs 25 percent more per ounce than the standard 36-ounce container. Likewise, a 16-ounce can of Minute Maid orange juice costs 51 percent more per-ounce than a smaller can. Translation: buying two of the smaller sizes often adds up to the better value.

Let Go of Some Luxury Goods

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