Focus On Recurring Expenses To Improve Savings

To improve your savings, start by focusing on your expenses, especially those that are recurring in nature. These are the ones that slowly chip away at your savings. Even if they are small, they add up over time. Address these leaks first.

Cutting down on an occasional candy bar won’t cut it, but bringing lunch to work instead of eating out everyday will make an impact!

Let’s explore some more ideas to cut down on recurring expenses.


cut down on your cellphone usage to cut down on recurring expensesHere’s a recurring expense that’s hard to get rid of! Cellphones have become indispensable and they take a big bite of your earnings. Prepaid plans are becoming extremely popular and for a reason. They have the potential to put money back into your pocket!

Explore prepaid options. See if you can find one that fits your usage patterns.

Here are some prepaid cell phone deals:

Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile has plans starting at $25 with unlimited text, web and email with 300 anytime minutes and no contract. This could be an option to consider for smartphone users.


T-Mobile has Pay-As-You-Go plans starting at 10c/minute. If you are not constantly on your cellphone and use cellphone only for talking and occasional texting, this is a money saver!


AT&T with its GoPhone prepaid has plans with no monthly fees wherein you pay $0.10 per minute with no annual contract. Plus, you also have the option of rolling over unused minutes, if refilled before end of the plan.

My story:

I pay $100 a year for my cellphone. I used to pay $60 a month before I decided to do something about it!

Annual savings? $620!


Replace your landline with Ooma voip If you have a good cellphone plan and you get good reception at home, consider eliminating your landline or look for a lower cost option.


If you have broadband (high speed internet), it makes a lot of sense to switch to a VOIP phone like Ooma. Ooma is a VOIP (Voice Over IP) device that sits between your broadband router and your home phone and uses the internet to transmit voice. You make and receive calls as you normally would with your regular phone.

What about monthly fees? $3.47/month! No that’s not a typo! Those are mandatory taxes and fees in my area. Yours might be slightly higher or lower. Domestic calling is free and unlimited!

My story:

I use Ooma and I don’t even pay a penny, not even the taxes! No I’m not a deadbeat! When Ooma introduced this first they didn’t think this through and offered their plans totally free including taxes! I simply bought into that. They discontinued this and charge only for taxes (and the device of course!).

On call quality, honestly I can’t find any difference between a regular phone and my Ooma phone.

Annual savings: $240!


cable as a recurring expenseDepending on how much you watch TV, you can either eliminate cable altogether or move to a lower plan. Replacing cable with free over-the-air transmission isn’t as hard as you think. Many have done it and don’t regret doing so, including yours truly!

Here’s are some excuses and frequently asked questions on cutting cable!

1. If I cut cable, what’ll I do with my TV?

See next point!

2. I just bought a HDTV and I don’t want to lose HD channels by cutting cable!

You can still watch HD channels! Buy a rabbit ear for $10. This can pick up over the air channels and lot of them are broadcast in HD! Or you could get a streaming device like Roku HD and watch streaming channels in HD

3. What is ROKU and is there a subscription fee?

ROKU is a streaming device that sits between your broadband router and your TV and which comes with tons of channels. Each channel is specific to a category. For example, there are international channels, channels that focus on classic movies, channels that focus on sports etc.

You can subscribe to a channel and watch shows on demand. The subscription is either free (Crackle by Sony) or might have a fee (Hulu Plus). There are tons of totally free channels and all are on-demand with little or no commercials.

4. I subscribe to Netflix, what are my options?

You can watch shows and movies streamed by Netflix on your flatscreen. In order to do that, you’ll need one of the following devices that hooks Netflix to your TV. XBox (with Live), Wii, PS3, Apple TV or Roku.

Of course, if your TV is already internet-enabled, you wouldn’t need any of the above!

My story:

I decided to cut cable. I did all of the above! I bought a rabbit ear for $10, I got about 13 local channels and most were in HD and all totally free.

I bought Roku and hooked it up to my TV. It comes with its own remote, so I still got my dose of aimless-channel-surfing fix! There were tons of free shows and movies!

I have Netflix, so I get to watch Star Trek whenever I choose!

Annual savings? $620

Magazine/Newspaper Subscriptions

read magazine online for free!If you subscribe to a print publication, do you take time to read through it or do just browse and toss? If it is the latter, is that worth the annual subscription fee you are paying? A number of publications are available for free on the internet. If you only care about the content and not how you get it, that’s another reason to cancel subscription.

My story:

I used to subscribe to Wired. It used to have good content, but lately the quality has been going downhill plus the content is available online if I so desperately wanted something. I ended up canceling it.

Annual savings? $20


cut down on your smoking addiction to save moneyIf you have a life shortening addiction like smoking, consider quitting. For yourself and your loved ones. You weren’t born weak, you have more willpower than you think. Take the first step.

If all you are addicted to is Starbucks coffee… :-)
Consider this: a cup of joe at Starbucks is what $4? A jar of pure colombian coffee at Trader Joe’s is $3.99 and it lasts me for a month! Something to think about. photo

My story:

Thankfully there is no story!

Annual savings? My health!

Gym Membership

cut down on gym membership to save money If you are not making use of your gym as frequently as you intended, here’s a tip: consider paying per use. Gyms don’t advertise this, but many have pay-per-use terms.

My story:

Not a recent one, but I did switch to pay-per-use and I’d work twice as hard since I felt I was paying through my nose! (When in fact, it was the reverse!).
Annual savings: $300 approximately

Electricity Usage

save money by replacing incandescent with cfl bulbsThis is probably the simplest! If you are using incandescent bulbs, replace them with CFLs and be amazed when you see your electricity bill! A 13 watt CFL bulb gives the same amount of light as a 60 watt incandescent. You do the math. And CFLs last up to 10 times longer.

My story

When I moved to my new house, I was appalled to find 100 watt, incandescent bulbs with dimmable switches everywhere! Dimmable CFL bulbs are more expensive than the regular CFL bulbs.

I started by replacing the dimmable switches to a normal light switch and currently in the process of converting all the incandescent bulbs to CFLs.

MoneyCone Tip: There is a ocean of difference when it comes to CFL brands. When in doubt, use Philips CFLs.

Annual savings? I don’t have a basis to compare, but I’m sure it would be much higher than with all incandescents!

Closing thoughts

If you are a sports fan, don’t cancel cable. If you love your iPhone, don’t switch to prepaid. If you make regular use of your gym, don’t cancel your gym membership.

The best tip on how to simplify your life would be to cut recurring expenses – watch the savings grow and one or more bills to *not* worry about!

Be happy, not miserable.

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55 thoughts on “Focus On Recurring Expenses To Improve Savings

  1. Really good post. I’m motivated! I’m getting rid of my landline and I’m going to cancel my newspaper subscription. I get all my news now on line. I had numerous magazine subscriptions years ago (mainly in hope the kids would pick them up and read them – “Scientific American, National Geographic etc. – and cancelled them once the kids were on their own.
    I’m fortunate in the workout area in that I have a great place to run right out my front door and I have some weights in the basement.
    Quitting smoking will save a fortune – no brainer there!
    Great tips..I need to get a bit more savy on the cell phone plans.
    Thanks for the info.You’re exactly right – the recurring expenses get you!

  2. I’ve been doing HD over the air using rabbit ears for a few years now, with Netflix streaming through my PS3. It’s worked out great for me. Serious savings if you are willing to miss a few of this season’s shows. Another hidden benefit: you end up watching far less commercials so you aren’t tempted as much by those savvy marketers :)

    Great post!

    • The irony is I never had HD when I was with DirecTV since they were charging extra for that option. Once I switched to free, I actually got to see HD on my TV!

      The best things in life *are* free! :)

  3. Your suggestions remind me how we have choices. If you are unwilling to make those changes, you should make others to yield savings. Savings is the priority and how you get there is a series of choices.

  4. Great post. My wife and I are looking into our phone and satellite options in order to save money. This information is timely so I am very thankful.

    I subscribe to Business Week and Forbes and literally read them cover to cover every word (except ads). My wife and I work out once per week for 20 minutes with a trainer doing high intensity training. Don’t smoke or drink coffee.

    • CFM, I ‘subscribe’ to Forbes, Business Week and Barron’s all for free!

      Signed up with their free offers! I even posted the deal on this site for Forbes – a one-year-no-cc-required deal!

      Next time this deal gets repeated, I’ll be sure to post.

  5. Great post moneycone! You are correct, monthly recurring charges certainly do add up. I have started taking my lunch to work everyday and have noticed a huge difference with my personal finances. Before I had my own cell phone plan, which definately added up quickly. Currently, my boyfriend and I share a family plan and don’t have a data plan on the phone which saves a ton of money. Unfortunately, many of the the new smartphones make it mandatory to have a data package on the phone plan – eliminating the wifi option. However, these prepaid options are definately worth looking into. Thanks!

    • Cell phone companies do make you jump through hoops and be sure to always read the fine print. The ‘unlimited plan’ may not be really unlimited.

      Glad you liked the post!

  6. For anyone thinking about getting rid of the landline, google voice is a free alternative for VOIP calls over the internet. I’ve been using it exclusively for over a year now without a problem. My work pays for my cell phone. I haven’t given up cable yet, though I have an HD antennae on the roof. I haven’t gotten a newspaper or magazine in years.

  7. How the heck do you pay 100 a year for cell service?! I was planning to get a phone with built in wi-fi and then make calls and texts with Google voice but that would at least cost 30 bucks a month. Also I have a Roku player and it does satisfy the need to channel surf. I like Crackle. It has tons of free movies and tv.

    • T-Mobile had this plan for 1000 minutes for $100 and this lasts for a year. I signed up! Even if I go overboard, that would still be less than paying $60 a month!

  8. Great tips and I like your closing statement ;)

    I did get an iphone for about half a year now and I’m so happy with it. Although I’m paying about $20 more than before I’m happy with this aspect of lifestyle inflation.

    Cable TV on the other hand, not so much! BF likes his sports channels though. And all the networks in BC are discontinuing the rabbit ears (at least for Shaw anyways) and moving to digital boxes.

    • Yep! If you enjoy something, don’t cut back on that! You can always find something else to hold off on.

      I would never advise an ardent WoW gamer to cancel his XBox live subscription! :)

  9. Now, this is my kind of thinking! All good tips. I’ve done away with the landline entirely, saving a decent amount of money that was just being thrown away. I remember how many folks said that I shouldn’t since it’s just something “you’re supposed to have”. Ha! Your option for a super-low cost plan is appealing though, and piqued my interest.

  10. Yea, I think Netflix is pretty good. I use it a lot. Instead of wasting lots of time trying to find free movies online, I just pay $8 a month for unlimited access!

    • Ah! All good things must come to an end! Netflix recently increased their prices! Now you pay higher and can choose between streaming-only or dvd-only or both for different rates.

      I don’t think a lot of folks are happy.

  11. There are so many things you can cut out. I can’t cut my caffeine yet, but I have changed my drink and save about $3 per day now.

  12. I would love to do some of your tips especially with respect to the landline. I’ve used google voice and it sounds great!

    I just can’t convince my wife to take the leap. She worried that if the electricity is out, we could still rely on the phone to still work (we have a few of the old style one just in case).

    Great atricle, I’ve tweeted!

  13. Quality post! I need to review my recurring expenses. Thanks for the reminder and advice. Be happy, not miserable, too!

  14. I look at recurring costs like this:

    Assuming you have a recurring charge of $1/month, that’s $12/year. If you have money invested in a Dividend stock that pays out 3%, you would need to put $400 into that investment to pay for it.

    This means a $60 cell phone bill requires $24,000 invested. Unfortunately when I tell people this, I usually get a confused stare. :)

  15. I wrote about cutting cable and cell phones not long ago. I actually had a VOIP wifi service I used on my iPhone for quite a while, and I used that as my only phone capability. It was $9/month. So, a little over $100/year. The problem was obviously no cell phone reception outside wifi spots. I’d still have it, but I sold my car and started riding the bus to really start saving some money and felt safer with a cell phone. I signed up for a Mobile PCS $40/mo unlimited plan. I have family up north that I talk to quite a bit. It’s a fair compromise.

    I canceled cable quite a while back as well. I also do the rabbit ear thing. I get about 6-9 channels reliably, in HD of course. It works out, as I’m on the computer most of the time anyway.

    The gym is another great idea. I use the gym provided to me by the association here, it’s included in rent.

    I do have an addiction: Coca-Cola. I only rationalize it by being a shareholder. Not a very good excuse. But, as you said it’s about being happy. I love my Coke.

    If you’re able to just cut out cable, seriously reduce the cell bill and cut out some of the restaurant tabs, you’d be amazed how much you can save.

    I love the frugal living tips! Keep em coming.

  16. I am a big sportsfan but never had cable. Most of the games that I like are shown online at
    Others, I watched on local tv channels, not that I watch all of the games since I really don’t have the time.

    sometimes I just watch the highlights if I miss them or just go to a friend’s house with cable… LOL

  17. Hey, I’m doing pretty good.
    cell phone – prepaid tracfone
    land line – ooma, no month payment. :D
    gym – gym at work
    addiction – none
    cable – I just get internet and smooch off the few free channels that came with it.
    electricity – I need to cut this bill down…

  18. Thanks for the great post! We too ditched the land line and the magazines/newspapers. We’ve worked at getting our electricity bills, gas bills, and water bills lower and lower. We got them so low the power company came out to test the meter to be sure it was working right! Why throw away money every month?

    • These may seem like small expenses, but their recurring nature adds up.

      Hats off to you for plugging the leaks! Power company coming home is a funny story!

  19. Unfortunately, many of the the new smartphones make it mandatory to have a data package on the phone plan – eliminating the wifi option. However, these prepaid options are definately worth looking into. Thanks!

  20. Great post. I think you covered almost everything. We just got rid of cable and now just download things as we want them. We really don’t watch much anyways. It is definitely a money saver.

    We are also converting our house to LED bulbs which saves money and is greener

    • Great tip on LEDs Miss T. I just wish they were a little bit cheaper. But definitely an excellent option – both eco-friendly and consumes less than even a CFL.

  21. Excellent post, MC. I’m asking the Mrs. to read this one. There’s an ongoing debate about cable.

  22. Funny, you wrote right before the Netflix 60% increase announcement – I’ll probably keep them anyway, but they sure have gall. Your overall premise is just like how big biz improves the bottom line – cut out the fixed costs (usually plants, equipment and salaries). In your case, you can’t fire yourself, but cutting out or down, these recurring monthly expenses will pay dividends for years to come.

    • Same here! I don’t think I’ll cut Netflix for now. Their move is interesting, considering Netflix has a lot more competition today, but not surprising.

  23. I thought you did a great job covering the many aspects of personal recurring monthly charges that I’ve even referred this article to other friends. I’m tweeting this one. :)

  24. Best advice on cutting down the recurring expenses , never thought that we can save so much. After this I have removed my landline.

  25. Very nice post,Buying a not really important is also recurring expenses to improve saving..I have also some of this information shown above.. Thanks for this great information very valuable..

  26. I gave up all my magazine subscriptions when Lehman went bust and haven’t missed them at all since then. I actually am happier without them – less clutter, saves money, and saves trees!

  27. I personally love Roku. I was paying over $130 per month for Dish Network. I haven’t missed anything by not subscribing to Dish Network anymore. Excellent article.

  28. Another prepaid cell service that’s really cost effective is TracFone. I actually tried it out about a year ago when my kid went to Spain for a study abroad program. Instead of spending a ton of money on my weekly check-up calls to him by calling from my land line, I used the TracFone cell. The rate was the same as local US calls so with about $80 total (for the actual phone and for the minutes) I was able to talk to him for six weeks. This is unheard of when using any other prepaid service, let alone any contract mobile or the landline. I’ve kept the prepaid since and have save a ton since my monthly expense is no more than $25.

  29. I gave up my gym membership a few years ago and haven’t looked back. It takes more discipline to exercise at home or go for walks, but the savings are worth it.

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