Money talks

With the economy in a shambles, everyone is implementing new cost cutting strategies. In our DebtStoppers brochure, Give Yourself a Raise, we talk about forgoing that “gourmet” cup of coffee – quad mocha frappachino – or whatever the heck it is, in favor of an old fashioned cuppa joe from your own kitchen. And you know what? A lot of you must be doing more than just listening, because Starbucks is closing down hundreds of stores (so now you might have to walk two blocks if you really want to indulge).

So, in that spirit, and with the reminder that if a single cup of coffee can make or break an industry (Starbucks 4th quarter profits are down 97%!), to help you keep within your budget, here are some more savings thoughts.

Review your phone bill. If your land line phone is also your life line phone, you should be aware that your phone bill has some amazing information on it, and if you are just casually perusing it to get to the bottom line, i.e. what you owe, you may be missing out on a significant savings opportunity. If there’s a charge that appears erroneous, dispute it. Or a long distance charge that is way beyond what you expected it, call the phone company on it. Trust me on this, the phone company recognizes that there is a lot of competition out there, and they are not going to nickel and dime you for a few bucks. They’d rather credit your account and keep you, than argue and lose you as a customer.

Also bear in mind that there may be a couple of regular line item charges that you don’t even use on your regular bill. For instance, when you initiated service with the phone company, you may have gotten one of those “deals” that gave you Call Waiting, Call Forwarding and Voice Mail for a single monthly fee. I don’t know about you, but I am not going to forward a phone call on my quarter (“Here’s the number, sweetie…”). And why would I ever even need voice mail if I’ve got call waiting? If they can’t reach me right away, it’s because I’m on both phone lines. “Wait your turn,” I say. Two prime examples of waste… call your phone company, and ask what options you have on your phone line and which ones you actually use, and cancel those that you don’t.

Here’s the 411 on 411. Depending on your phone company service plan, you get charged for each and every phone directory inquiry. And let’s not even talk about how many of them are not the correct number – so much for “assistance!” I can dial the wrong number all by myself, thank you very much. Forget about your phone company’s directory assistance and try Google’s version at 1-800-GOOG-411. They’ll even connect you for free. If you’re online, there are several free online directories that you could try, including the yellow pages and white pages. It just makes no sense to pay good money for information that is readily available elsewhere.

Cancel your internet. No, I’m not suggesting forever, but if you’re stuck in a rut with the same old ISP, it’s time to shop around for a better deal – either in cash savings or for faster and better service. At the very minimum, call your current ISP and ask them how you can save money on their service. If they’ve got a special incentive program, you should get it. If you’ve got AOL as your ISP, and are really serious about canceling their service, be adamant about it… my mother has been trying (the key word here is "trying") to get rid of them for years – the only benefit is that every time she calls, they give her three months service for free!

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