Updated on 09.08.14

The One Hour Project: Cleanse Your Monthly Bills

Trent Hamm

One thing that continuously saps away personal finance growth is monthly bills, particularly those where you don’t actually use the service very much. Unfortunately, many people get into a routine of just paying the bills without really thinking about what they’re paying and why.

I challenge you to take an hour, sit down with your entire stack of monthly, annual, and other regular bills and go through them to see what exactly you can trim without changing your way of life.

Lower Your Bills Without Changing Your Way of Life

1. Go around and collect your last statement from all of your regular bills

Do so both online and otherwise. Make sure you’ve got everything in front of you before you start – the most recent statement from all of your regular bills.

2. Go through your bills roughly at first, deciding whether any of them can be completely axed

Are you paying for a Netflix service you’re not using at all? Axe it entirely, or else move to a lower level of service. Paying for membership in a country club that you’ve not visited in six months? Axe that one. Got a subscription renewal for a magazine you barely read? Don’t automatically renew it out of habit.

3. Go through your remaining bills and look for optional pieces that you can cut

If you use an optional service, don’t cut it, of course, but look for things that you don’t use as much. Do you have an unlimited text messaging plan but rarely text message? Axe it and pay per message. Do you pay for premium movie channels but watch them maybe once a month? Drop those channels. Are you paying for an internet service on your cell phone that you don’t use? Drop that service. Just look for little things that you don’t use but you pay for every month.

It will take a good hour to go through all of your bills with care, but if you can even eliminate $20 worth of monthly spending, you’re saving $240 a year. The first time I did this, I cut out about $200 a month (seriously – bye bye Netflix, bye bye to a gym membership, and so on), which meant $2,400 more each and every year.

If you don’t find anything, that’s good news as well – it’s proof that there’s not much fat in your regular required bills.

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  1. Holli Jo says:

    Trent — I love your One Hour Project suggestions. I’ve already tried a few of them and plan to work on more. They’re great! I liked them so much I linked to them from my blog.

    Thanks for sharing such useful ideas for getting finances in order.

  2. Pamela says:

    Great ideas. Here are a few further ideas on cutting down your monthly phone bill. I managed to trim about $20 off our monthly phone bill. We had the packaged local phone service that included voice mail and a couple other options – none of which we used. While surfing around the phone company’s web page, I discovered they had a basic local package – without the bells and whistles and for $15 less/month. I switched our long distance to a per-minute plan instead of an unlimited. I looked at our long-distance usage over the previous couple months, calculated what our montly charges would have been with each plan, and went with the one that cost us the least.

  3. doug m says:

    these are some good steps to eliminating bills that might not be necessary. good post!

  4. Elaine says:

    How many bills do people have that it takes an hour to go through them? I have a phone bill and a credit card bill. Utilities/internet/cable are all included in my rent.

  5. Red says:

    @Elaine, you answered your own question. Living in a house (even renting a house, which I do), produces a slough of bills.

    Monthly bills include:
    – Trash bill
    – Water Bill
    – Phone (Landline) Bill
    – DSL Bill (separate from Phone in our case)
    – Cell phone bill (Through a family plan, again separate)
    – Rent
    – Credit Card (Though I normally pay this weekly)

    Non-monthly bills include Car Insurance, AAA, and renters insurance.

    Unlike Elaine, I don’t have cable, so I saved a bill there.

    These would definitely take me an hour to find and then go through.

  6. Red says:

    Forgot the gas bill. I knew there was another one…

  7. Red says:

    And the electric bill.

  8. I’m going to mention your blog on my blog where I offer real life tips in business, money and real estate.

    I’ve got some financial clutter as well and it’s so easy to procrastinate on it. This week, I was going to do some posts on money.

  9. Empress Juju says:

    I just did this recently!

    It’s good for me to do with some regularity, because the little splurges creep in… and before you know it, there’s another group of things that are being paid for, but not used.

    I’m constantly checking with the cell phone & cable companies to re-negotiate rates, and the things that seemed like such a good idea six months ago get taken for granted now…

    Thanks for the reminders!

  10. Eric says:

    My wife and I did this earlier this year. We also called folks to negotiate lower rates than we were paying (on our TiVo and cable for instance), and signed up with a discount program we found after trying to find out how to reduce our Sprint bill (Sprint has a lot of discounts you might not know about until you look). Just becoming conscious of how we were spending money on our bills helped us clear out quit a bit of money each month that we didn’t need to spend.

  11. Kate says:

    I put my Netflix account on hold, printed out my queue, and went to my local library to see which of those movies they had in their collection. Turns out they have quite a few. I’ve been watching those for the last three months. My local library has free dvd borrowing, as does another nearby library. Another library not far away charges $1 per dvd for a week’s borrowing, except for educational dvd’s. Obviously, I’m using the two that offer free borrowing.

    I found out recently, that my local library will also at least attempt to get me dvd’s through inter-library loan. I’ve gotten three dvd’s this way. They take a while to get them, but with a long queue courtesy of Netflix, I have plenty of stuff to choose from and am not in any hurry.

    I haven’t yet decided whether or not to re-start my Netflix membership. I’m going to wait until I’ve seen or tried to get every movie from my queue that I can before I make that decision.

  12. Been there says:

    We dropped our pay cable channels awhile back after finding out the library has some current movies. But they also have some oldie but goldie movies we hadn’t seen and are watching them now. We also find we do not spend as much time infront of the tube, my husband started to calculate the number of hours we spend just on the weekends wathing TV, figuring that into months and years of just our lives together, it is scarry. You work for the weekend and spend it infront of the TV. We are actually talking about throwing the thing out, it’s 12 years old and not working well anyway. Most news and important stuff can be found on the internet and we are considering classes and hobbies to fill the time.

  13. lotsofbluesky says:

    I canceled my landline phone about three years ago and have never missed it. I only use a cellphone which saves money and is very convenient. I registered the number with the local police for their emergency notification system (to call me if there is an evacuation or emergency advisory like having to boil water before use). I’ve used it for 911 calls (faster since I didn’t have to run into the house to make the call). I call and receive international calls.

  14. dawn f says:

    I would love to know how you negotiated a lower rate on Tivo and the cable company for that matter. Our cable is a bundled package for a year w phone & internet but at the end of the year it will go up quite a lot. Comcast never seems to want to negotiate with me just bill more. any insight into how you did it would be fabulous.

  15. steve says:

    It’s funny how the exercise of looking at your bills with a view to cutting down on them can really let you see your life in a fresh way and reprioritize. Like the couple who dropped cable and started getting videos from the library, then discovered that they might want to just drop the tv altogether once they did a “time budget” on how many hours the tv was sucking out of their lives. (I did the same thing many years back–realized i was spending at least 15 hrs per week in front of the tube, and decided to go cold turkey by rolling the thing into a closet (out of the “center” of the room) and putting some heavy boxes in front of the closet door! Nowadays I have one in the house but I very rarely use it at all, even for rentals.

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